Saturday, December 22, 2012

roasted capsicum and coconut dip

'Tis the silly season and I'm pretty happy about it. The countdown is now on. But unlike my childhood years my christmas excitement is less directed towards christmas morning and presents from Santa, and more about the days surrounding the 25th - family arriving from different corners, lots of food to cook and enjoy, reunions with old friends returning to their home towns, and lazy post-christmas-day holidays spent eating left overs, lapping up some sunshine and reflecting on what's hopefully been for all - a pretty good year. 

There are always a lot of people around my family christmas, and there's one thing my mother has taught me about hosting guests - there should always be a platter! Growing up, whenever we had visitors (at any time of the year), my sister and I were on lock down. Before guests would arrive, no one could leave the house until every room was spring cleaned - bathroom taps polished and dust out of all the cracks and corners and all. This mad cleaning schedule meant that by the time people were arriving Mum was literally jumping through the shower and getting herself ready as they were walking up the drive. And so, it became my job to put together a platter of delicious nibbles, because there was absolutely no time left for Mum to do it, but she insisted we couldn't possibly go without. And so, with the fridge at my disposal I could put together my own foody-work-of-art - which at age 12, made me feel quite grownup and important. Many years on, if I am at home and we've friends coming over, by default it is my job to put together a platter.

So with christmas at my parents just around the corner and more family visitors and guests popping in then you can count - it is crucial that the fridge is fully stocked with platter goodies. This year I plan to make up a few bulk pestos (check out two I've whipped up here and here), a classic hummus and then one dip that is a little different - roasted capsicum and coconut dip. That way I know I'll be prepared the minute someone walks in the door. I can throw together a selection of dips, some crackers or crunchy bread, some cheese if I fancy and I think I'll have myself some happy customers. 

The flavour combo in today's dish is quite special. The sweetness of the roasted capsicums sit so beautifully with the creamy coconut - it gives off quite a thai-style flavour burst. It's super easy to put together and if you make a load of it, you'll find yourself grabbing it from the fridge for more than just a platter essential - I love to throw it through some pasta as a quick and easy sauce, (if you try my zucchini fettucini recipe, it works well as a replacement for the pesto and completely changes the dishes taste-profile). I also like to have it on hand for a mid afternoon snack with some freshly chopped vegetables.  

roasted red capsicum and coconut dip

4 large or 5 medium capsicums (red, orange or yellow are best)
1 Tbls coconut or olive oil
1 large kumara/red potato - chopped in to small cubes
3 cloves garlic - roughly chopped
1 tsp rock salt or flaky sea salt
juice of 1 lemon
1 finely diced small red chilli (optional)
1 Tbls extra coconut oil (optional for boosted flavour)
1 cup cannelini beans
1/2 cup coconut cream
1/2 cup olive oil
water to thin

Heat oven to 190 degrees Celsius. Prepare kumara and place in a roasting dish with a little olive oil. Rub the capsicums with your choice of olive or coconut oil and place in a separate roasting dish. Put both dishes in the oven. Leave the Kumara till it turns golden and starts to crisp (about 20 minutes), remove from the oven and leave to cool. Check Capsicums after 15/20 mins and turn them. The bottom side should be turning a dark roasted brown colour and starting to blister. Continue cooking and turning till their whole surface has taken on the blistering brown complexion about 40-50 mins (see pictures above and below). Remove from oven and leave to cool. If you have the time, cover them while cooling as this will help them sweat and make their skins easy to remove. 

Once the capsicums have cooled to at least room temperature peel their skins and remove their green stalk and seeds. Add the capsicum flesh, along with the roasted kumara, garlic, salt, lemon juice and optional chilli and coconut oil to a food processor. Pulse and blend till all ingredients are well combined. Next add the beans and coconut cream and blend together. Leaving the food processor on slowly pour oil through the top shoot. Turn off the processor and try the mixture. Let your tast buds decides whether it needs a little more salt, chilli or water to thin the consistency. I like this dip quite smooth and velvety, so leave the processor running for a few minutes, but it is delicious left chunky too. You may need to help your food processor along and mix in any ingredients that run up the side of the bowl.

I love whipping this out for my friends as it has such an interesting flavour and is something a little different to add to your christmas menu!

Monday, December 10, 2012

chocolate quinoa breakfast pudding

I've been wondering how to compile this post for some time now. Because quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) deserves such star treatment, a red carpet entry and the whole world to see it in all its glory, I was a little nervous to choose a recipe to showcase it. I eat quinoa at least two or three times a week - for breakfast, lunch, dinner, a snack, or dessert. Because there are so many yummy ways to enjoy it, I realised I'd never be able to choose the one perfect quinoa dish to share with you. So a few nights ago I made a promise to myself - the next time I cook quinoa, I'm taking photos, writing down the recipe and posting it. No second thoughts! Just hurry up, get on with it and share the quinoa love.

That was while I was tucked up in bed and drifting off to sleep. As it turns out, the next morning I found myself in the kitchen all giddy and excited preparing chocolate quinoa breakfast pudding in a pot on the stove. Recipe block over. I was soon to have a satisfied tum and my quinoa blog post - double win!

I've been enjoying quinoa porridge and the like for breakfast for some time now, but on this particular morning, I had some oats that needed finishing, a craving for a sweet treat and a friendly jar of cacao giving me eyes from the pantry. If the idea of pudding for breakfast is a little too much for you (although I'm sure most of you will feel quite fine about the idea, just this once, right?) then feel free to save this recipe for a more dessert-appropriate hour. Alternatively,  you could leave out the cacao so it's not so rich. Otherwise, follow as I do - pudding for breakfast? YES PLEASE.

Quinoa has been enjoyed and consumed in South America, namely the Andes region - Peru, Equador, Bolivia and Columbia for thousands of years. It has been said that the Incas considered it a sacred crop and called it the 'mother of all grains'. And that it is! Well, kind of - interestingly, although quinoa looks much like a grain, it is actually a seed. I've even heard some call it a pseudo-grain. Whatever you like to roll with - grain or seed - quinoa is delicious and bursting with nutritional loveliness. 

I especially love this wonder-seed for it's protein-rich qualities - unlike many other grains, seeds or legumes, quinoa boasts all the essential amino acids. Amino acids are what make up the protein needed in our bodies in order for us to function. Essential amino acids are essential because the body cannot produce them on it's own and must obtain them from specific foods. A combination of all essential amino acids are sometimes harder to find in plant based foods and are more commonly found in meat. But hoorah to quinoa! - A plant based food that gives it all. 

Quinoa is full of fibre, phosphorus, magnesium and iron, is low in fat, has a good dash of calcium and is gluten free. In other words, it's full of all the good stuff! Taste wise it is very unique. I love it's nutty, earthy flavour that is interesting enough to really boost a dish, yet mild and versatile enough, allowing it to be prepared in both sweet and savoury dishes. You'll find quinoa at any health food store, and in recent years I've noticed it popping up at some supermarkets. I recommend hitting your nearest health food shop though as you can usually buy it in bulk there and for a more affordable price.

Now, I think I have given you enough reasons to jump on the quinoa-wagon, if you haven't already! I've also expressed my deep love for cacao and some of its nutritional benefits in an earlier post. So when I combine this chocolatey goodness with my great mate quinoa, I've got myself some serious soul-mate action in a bowl. 

chocolate quinoa breakfast pudding

(serving for one)
1/3 cup quinoa - washed and drained*
1 cup water (and a little more, to add at the end)
1 small apple - cored and chopped into small pieces (see photo)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Tbls dried fruit (raisins, dates, apricots etc)
Tbls of honey (less if you're using a really sweet blend)
Tbls cacao powder
Tbls walnuts - roughly chopped
1/4 cup rolled oats (or 1 Tbls chia seeds if you'd prefer a gluten free option)
1/3 cup milk - your choice of cows, rice, soy etc
half cup fresh blueberries (optional - but oh so delicious)

Gluten Free Option - Please note, I have called for rolled oats in this recipe however they are not always gluten free due to the wheat products they can come into contact with during processing. If you are gluten intolerant make sure the packet confirms they are gluten free. Alternatively you can replace the 1/3 cup of oats with extra quinoa - In the initial stages add 1/2 cup quinoa with 1 1/4 cups of water. When the recipe calls for oats, instead add 1 Tbls chia seeds and continue adding a dash more water or milk as the recipe suggests till the mixture reaches your desired consistency. 

In a pot on the stove combine quinoa with water, half of the chopped apple, cinnamon, dried fruit and honey. Bring to the boil, give a quick stir and then lower to a simmer. Cover with a firm lid and leave for 12 minutes (I use a gas stove which gives me a lot of control over the heat. If using an electric stove, you can always try turning the element right off for the twelve minutes as the element sometimes take a while to cool down. If you know your oven well, you'll know what is best to achieve a 'simmering' temperature). 

After 12 minutes, remove lid and give the mixture a stir. Keep the element on a simmering heat. Add cacao powder and half of the walnuts and combine. Next add the oats and stir together. The mixture will immediately dry out so add a Tbls of water, then Tbls of milk intermittently while stirring, until you have used all of the milk and the oats have cooked. During this process the oats and liquid will bring all the ingredients together to make a porridge-like consistency. Feel free to add more or less liquid if you think it is necessary. 

Pour into a bowl and top with the rest of your apple, blueberries and a sprinkling of walnuts. Add an extra dash of milk if you'd like and sit down to enjoy this delightful sweet-treat breakfast that's super packed with healthy goodness to set you up for the day.

*It's a good idea to wash your quinoa before eating it due to its saponin coating. This coating naturally occurs during cultivation and has a bitter taste which is undesirable to birds that might otherwise try to destroy the crop (pretty cool what nature gets up to, huh?). If you've a fine sieve, place quinoa inside and run water through it while massage it with your hands. Even better, leave your quinoa soaking over night and then rinse clean before cooking. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

throw together stir fry

Finally! I'm back. New Zealand - it is very VERY great to see you again. The past few weeks have been seriously full - coffee dates, reunions, burning holes in all my pockets, wallets and bank accounts, and not keeping up with eat it posts (sorry!). More details, recipes, photos and stories from my venture home after Korea will make their way onto the blog as I settle back in to a slightly more structured lifestyle. For now though, I can at last share this easy brown rice stir fry that I'd promised a few posts back. 

In my zucchini fettuccine post I wrote about some of my thoughts on the good and bad behind carbohydrates. Check it out here for more background info. I've become more aware in recent years that not all carbohydrate foods are right for me, namely refined grains such as white flour and white rice. So I've had to adjust some things and lower my intake of particular foods. But this does not mean I want to seriously cut out carbohydrates for good (sorry Dr. Atkins). 

This may seem a little out of the blue, but I want to rewind just a little - back to those angst ridden teenage years. Remember if your parents ever said "no!", you'd want to say "yes!", right? If rules were in place, you'd want to break them? Am I ringing any bells? Well, the same goes for me now that I'm an adult. But rather than battling with parents over house parties and riding in cars, it's food that has become the topic of debate. If I'm told I'm not allowed to eat white doughy pizza crust because it's bad for me, then I'll be breaking bars to find the stuff. The whole concept of a 'diet' or not being allowed to eat certain foods makes me feel uneasy.

I have a sneaky feeling that some of you can relate to this concept and have probably experienced, at some point in your life, the yoyo effect - dieting and cutting out a certain food from your diet, feeling deprived and then compensating by introducing it back in with full force. Thankfully I now know that's not a healthy pattern! I never want to associate deprivation, hunger, not allowed and DIET with food. My solution instead is to introduce and welcome new, healthy and delicious foods!

When I introduce foods that are really good for me, I notice that foods that don't bode well with my digestion or body, disappear from my menu quite easily. By consciously channeling my focus onto healthy foods that I should eat (instead of obsessing over foods that I shouldn't eat), the idea of deprivation never comes to mind. 

So in keeping with the theme, here is another dish that introduces a healthy whole grain, is a great carbohydrate source, fills you up and will have you dreaming of more ways to welcome it into your diet.

Why Brown and Black Rice? - White rice is polished and refined so that the hul, bran and germ are removed, depleting it of its fibre and nutrients. Unlike white rice, brown and black rice only have the hul (the outer layer of the rice grain) removed, retaining it's nutritional make-up and boosting us with a bunch of natural goodness. 

Brown rice is extremely high in soluble fiber which is not only great for our digestive system but helps us to feel full for longer and can lower our chances of overeating. Let's not stop at fiber though. Other essential minerals in brown rice include manganese, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, potassium, iron, and a bunch of B vitamins. Manganese for one, is needed to build strong bones, helps us to metabolise cholesterol and fats, and aides in the absorption of vitamins.

Black rice takes it a step further - it packs all the brown rice punch, but its rich and deep dark colour provides super antioxidant levels. These help our bodies stay clean and neutralise toxins that creep inside us through processed foods, pollution and other chemicals. 

Oh, and did I mention it looks amazing. I love its deep tone and the way it contrasts against the brown rice. Black rice is a little harder to come by in supermarkets however and tends to be priced a tad higher than brown. So don't fear if you can't use it in this recipe. If you've not tried either variety before, it's good to know that the taste is different to white rice. It's nuttier, richer and, well, just more interesting! Give it a go.

throw together stir fry

I've kept the flavours in this dish relatively simple to showcase the complexity in taste of the brown/black rice. The nature of most stir fry meals in my kitchen is usually very last minute and thrown together when I can't be bothered with anything too extravagant and want a quick and easy meal. For this reason I've tried to use simple flavours and ingredients that are staples in my pantry and fridge. What I love about a stir fry is that you can throw in whatever veg you've got and add a shake or sprinkle of whatever sauces or condiments take your fancy. I'm not sticking to any traditional recipe here, so please feel free to experiment with your own flavour combinations. The main goal of this post is to encourage you to try out brown and/or black rice. Enjoy!

serving for 2
1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice*
1 1/2 cups cooked black rice**
2/3 cup shaved almonds - lightly dry toasted***

2 Tbls sesame oil (or preferred cooking oil)
1 large onion - finely sliced
4 cloves garlic - finely chopped
2 Tbls fresh ginger - finely chopped
1-2 small dried red chillies - crushed, seeds removed to desired heat, and finely chopped
1 carrot - cut into thin strips similar to the red capsicum
2 medium sized red capsicums - seeded and cut into thin long slices
1/2 head broccoli - cut into small florets
2 Tbls brown rice vinegar (if you don't have this, lemon juice might complement nicely)
2 Tbls water (more if the pan requires it)
4 Tbls soy sauce (look for wheat free varieties if you'd like to keep this dish gluten free, or alternatively use tamari - this has a stronger flavour so you may need to adjust quantities)
Cracked pepper

Begin by preparing all vegetables and removing rice from the fridge so it is not so cold when it comes time to cook with it. Add sesame oil to a hot pan and once it glides easily across the bottom add onions and garlic. Stir and cook for a few minutes. Reduce heat a little and add the ginger and chilli. Continue to stir until the ginger is fragrant. Boost the heat and add the carrots. It's really important the pan is piping hot at this point. Toss them through the pan and add 1 Tbls of vinegar. As the carrots start to warm add the other vegetables and continue to move them so they are evenly cooked. Add another Tbls of vinegar. This will create steam for the vegetables to cook in. As soon as the pan dries out again, replace this step by adding water. 

Once the vegetables are heated through but still crunchy, add the rice, soy sauce and pepper. Combine everything together and keep on a medium to high heat until the rice is hot. Just before serving, mix through the almonds (leaving a little for garnish). Have a taste and add a sprinkling of salt, some more soy sauce and a dash more vinegar if you think it needs it. Serve in warm bowls with an extra topping of almonds.

* I like to cook up a batch of brown rice at the start of the week and use it as I need it - usually in a stir fry and cold rice salad. I find using rice that was cooked the day before/cold brown rice works really well in this dish. But if you don't have time you can cook it whilst preparing the vegetables. Then, simply place the rice in a sieve and run a cold tap over it to cool it down a little, before bringing it back to temperature with the other flavours in the stir fry pan. There are many different methods used to cook brown rice so you can follow cooking directions on the back of the packet. I usually add it to a pot with at least three times as much water and cook with the lid ajar on a rolling boil for about 20-25 mins, drain then cool. It has a much firmer bite then white rice, so don't be afraid by this texture and overcook it! 

** I like to cook the black rice in a separate pot to the brown so it doesn't stain the colour of the brown rice. Depending on the grain too, the black can sometimes take a little longer to cook. By separating them you avoid staining and uneven cooking and end up with a lovely colour contrast in your bowl. Remember too, if you don't have black rice, this dish is still great without it.

*** To toast the almonds, place them in a dry pan over a low heat. Keep a close eye on them so they don't burn, and toss them every 30 seconds or so for an even toast. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

my year in korea caught on film

If you didn't know already, I'm currently on the road adventuring through South East Asia and then homeward bound. Initially I thought I was super organised on the post front, but it's definitely taking me a little longer than usual to write and publish posts! I am however putting a lot of energy into enjoying incredible food from different places - Vietnam, Loas and Thailand. Of course the food is a huge focus on my journey. My plan is to take as many snaps, lap up and eat a whole load of deliciousness and write, cook and learn along the way. Once I've returned home then I'll get on to some more formulated posts and recipes and give you a true taste of my South East Asia trip through the food I ate. I do have a few posts tucked up my sleeve from when I was in Korea but please bear with me if they are not as regularly published. I will try to keep up a steady flow! 

I know last week I'd promised a follow-up recipe - an easy throw together stir fry, but I have a few final touches I want to make. I plan to be sitting on a beach on the coast of Cambodia next week, so I imagine I'll find some time there to finish it up. For now, I have something a little different to share...

The weeks leading up to this trip were filled with excitement, lots of lists and a whole load of anticipation. My busy bustling self was so caught up in all of the hype that it's only now that the reality of leaving Korea is sinking in.

Deciding to move to Korea was a pretty quick-snap and suprise decision. I'd never really given the place much thought as somewhere to live until the idea was put right in front of my face. It's seems strange to think that was all over a year ago now though. My experience there was amazing, crazy, beautiful, frustrating, interesting, unique, challenging and wonderful. Towards the end of my year contract, some days I'd sit at my desk at work and feel like Korea had been home for years. Other times, it was hard to believe that any more than a few months had passed.

It seemed an impossible task to wrap up the whole experience through writing in just one post. Instead I thought I'd share it through some photos I took along the way.

There are some snaps to follow from the coldest winter I've ever endured, the completion of my first half marathon, trips to Seoul, hikes up mountains, a visit from Ryan's parents, of food, of people, of streets; this is my year in Korea caught on film. That's enough said from me I think. I'll let the  pictures do the talking... 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

zucchini fettuccine with raw & zesty parsley pesto

I've always been a lover of Italian food and although New Zealand is about as far away from Italy as you can get, my parents put their own spin on Italian cuisine and made it a staple in our kitchen while I was growing up. Lasagne was my birthday dinner of choice year after year. Not a week went by without one of my parents whipping up a pasta dish with a sauce that was always made from scratch. I've old memories of my Dad, Mike, setting aside a whole Saturday and devoting it to the kitchen - a ritual he practices to  this day. His full-day-cook-up saw him make amazing pizzas with dough that was nurtured and cared for like a baby (and if he wasn't jumping continents to Europe, he'd be whipping up some elaborate Indian style curry - Saturday night dinner was always a treat)!

So it goes without saying... I love pasta. I love bread. I love pizza. But in recent years my body hasn't been dealing with the massive amounts of refined wheat (think white pasta, pizza dough, most breads) that it used to so easily enjoy. 

Initially, even though my body was telling me it couldn't cope, my mind wasn't having a bar of it. The thought of life without bread and pasta was not worth a second of my time. I soon realised though, that the weight gain, exhaustion and the slow but dangerous decline of a healthy functioning body was not worth it. So, although  I couldn't really stomach the idea of getting rid of pasta and bread from my diet, I knew I could find some ways to shift my thinking and prepare food a little differently so that I felt better and ultimately my body would be happy and healthy.

When I first approached this issue, I was quick to blame carbohydrates in general as the source of the problem. I think many of us associate pasta and bread with weight gain. And when we think of pasta and bread - we think carbs. So if carbs are stopping us from doing up the top button on our jeans, just cut them out of our diet right? Wrong! In my venture into understanding the story behind carbohydrates, I learnt that they don't just come in the form of pizza, pasta and bread. Lentils, chickpeas, brown rice, barley, beans, buckwheat, quinoa, heck even fruit and vegetables are all great sources of carbohydrates. So are we supposed to cut them out of our diet too? I don't think so! 

Refined carbohydrates are foods that I like to keep an eye out for. A refined carbohydrate basically means that its natural nutrients - including fiber, minerals and vitamins - have been stripped. In other words, it is no longer a whole food. Let's take white flour for example. Many people consider white flour to be nutritionally 'dead' because of the intense degree to which the wheat berry has been striped of its nutrients during the milling process. So it makes sense as to why I was feeling so blocked up after eating refined wheat. It's lacking in real nutrients and clogging up my system, providing zero health gains. 

Then there's the marketing element to food that tricks us with skilfully constructed jargon to promote, what I consider to be, fake health. These days you'll find on your shelves 'enriched' white flour. Please don't be fooled. This just means the wheat berry has been milled and ground down, depleting it of its vitamins and minerals and then had a very small artificial handful thrown back in. What's the point? I guess after all this stripping and breaking down someone realised that food should be eaten to nourish us and that we actually need key nutrients to live. So by supplementing (a very small few of) the nutrients back in (making it 'whole' again) and whacking on a label that reads 'enriched', the problem's solved. I'll let you ponder that for a minute.

All that being said, I'm not telling you to never touch a loaf of bread again! But my thoughts on the matter are to keep things in moderation. Cutting down on refined foods in general and replacing them with nourishing whole and real foods has helped me become a healthier person and I just wanted to share some of my own insight!

Ok, now let's rewind a little here to my love affair with pasta. If life without bread, without pizza, without pasta was out of the equation, then I wanted to find a way to make it work for me. And I've been experimenting! - How can I replace refined carbohydrates with WHOLE foods? Let me tell you.

The first answer is simple and in the question itself....

Replace the refined carbohydrate with the unadulterated (whole) version! I try to avoid using so much white flour and sub in wholemeal flour or spelt flour. Or try out brown rice, black rice or quinoa instead of white rice - they fill you up for longer and have far more complex and interesting flavours. A simple start.

When it comes to bread and mastering a decent loaf - I'm still a novice and I've struggled to source some white flour alternatives in my little country town in Korea. It's a work in progress so let me get back to you! Don't let me stop you experimenting though - if you're new to it, start subbing in wholemeal flours in baking and work your way up to bread.

My second answer is right here in today's dish... I want to share with you two meals (this post and next) that each demonstrate recipes which replace refined foods with whole foods. First up is my Italian inspired zucchini fettuccine with raw green pesto. The purpose of this dish is to give you an idea of how you can put a mega twist on a pasta classic. 

Next we'll jump continents from Europe to Asia and I'll show you a classic rice stir-fry dish I like to whip up using brown rice instead of white (stay tuned for my next post). You can also check out last week's recipe - crunchy red vegetable, kumara and brown lentil salad, for more inspiration. Lentils are a great carbohydrate that are protein packed and 100% whole.

Right. Zucchini Fettuccine time. So, maybe I've potentially drawn you into this recipe under false pretences. There isn't actually any pasta in this dish as the title suggests. But don't run away - I've enticed you this far and we're hitting the home straight. As it turns out, zucchinis are amazing and my new best friend. When you peel them and give them a light steam they have a similar texture to pasta, with a fresh and lighter taste - a true lifesaver in my recent journey. I could go on about how good it is or how much it really tastes like pasta, but I'm not sure you'll believe me until you try it out for yourself! 

Give this recipe a go, and if it doesn't satisfy, make sure I'm the first to know about it!

zucchini fettuccine with raw-green pesto 

raw & zesty parsley pesto
1 cup raw walnuts - soaked for 5-7 hours*
3 cloves of garlic* - roughly chopped
2 packed cups of parsley
juice of a lemon
1/2 cup cold pressed olive oil
1/4 cup water
tsp of flaky sea salt or rock salt
decent grind of cracked pepper

Add walnuts, garlic and parsley to a food processor and blend until the ingredients have broken up and started to mix together. Add lemon juice, salt and pepper and give it a few pulses. Next, with the blender on, slowly pour in the olive oil. Everything at this stage should be combined but still a little dry. Next add water, as you did the olive oil, so that the pesto reaches a creamy yet chunky paste and holds nicely together. I like my pesto to have texture but also easily spreadable. You can tweak the water or add more olive oil at the end to reach your desired consistency. Have a taste and season more if you fancy. To store, keep in the fridge for up to five days and top with a little olive oil if it starts to dry out.

I've kept this pesto raw so that it's user friendly for everyone. I've talked about the goodness of a diet rich in raw foods here, check it out if you'd like. This pesto is a great addition to your fridge whether you're a 100% raw foodie, or just love the taste of a good quality pesto. If you do swing in the complete-raw direction you can enjoy this dish by preparing the vegetables as I've outlined below and skipping the steaming and cooking steps.

zucchini fettuccine
serving for two

3 large zucchinis (stock up if there are only small ones available at your market)
12-14 cherry tomatoes - halved
approx 8 button mushrooms - quartered (or chopped into 6 if they are big)
2 Tbls of olive oil
juice of half a lemon 
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 lightly packed cup spinach - roughly chopped 
salt and pepper
water for steaming
3 Tbls raw & zesty parsley pesto
parsley - finely chopped (optional for a garnish)

Bring a pot of water to boil that fits a steamer inside. Peel the zucchinis to remove and discard the skin. Continue this same peeling motion but keeping the shavings in a bowl (see picture below). Continue to peel till you reach the seedy centre. Set aside and prepare the tomatoes and mushrooms as described above. Add the olive oil to a hot pan. When the oil is hot, sprinkle the oregano around the edge of the pan and arrange the tomatoes on top, flat-face down - reserving space in the centre of the pan. Place the mushrooms in the middle. After a minute add lemon juice to the mushrooms and give them a stir. Wait another minute or so and then flip the tomatoes (once they are starting to brown up). At this point you can mix them all together, season with salt and pepper to taste and add a dash of water or extra lemon juice if the pan dries out. Continue to cook till the mushrooms are soft and the tomatoes skins start to wrinkle. Turn to a low heat and cover. 

Add the zucchinis to the steamer for two minutes (no longer). If they start to turn translucent remove them. All you really want to do is heat them through. While they are doing their thing (this is where timing gets a little tricky), add 3 healthy sized tablespoons of pesto to the tomato/mushroom pan and mix through. When the zucchini is ready, add this to the pan and bring everything together (I find tongs handy for this step). If necessary add an extra drizzle of olive oil for lubrication, or even an extra dollop of pesto.

Garnish with parsley, cracked pepper, and a sprinkling of salt if that takes you fancy.

* Completely immerse 1 cup of walnuts in clean filtered water and leave to soak for 5-7 nights - overnight is fine, or during the day while you're at work. Soaking your seeds and nuts breaks down their enzymes which inhibits our bodies from efficiently absorbing their nutrients. Plus they swell up and change in texture ideal for this recipe.

** The garlic I was using in Korea was really powerful. If I used three cloves this pesto would blow my head off. I don't remember garlic being that strong at home. I got my lovely mother to test out the recipe and she used 4 cloves and said it was punchy but great. So I've rolled with three in this recipe assuming you're using a relatively mild-average bulb. But feel free to judge this yourself. Definitely throw in at least one clove! It cuts into the strength of the olive oil and works well with the lemon juice to brighten the flavours.

Friday, September 7, 2012

the chocolate blueberry grime fighter

Spring I love you! I'm not even in the Southern Hemisphere right now but I can still feel that spring in my step. Why? Because I'm living the goodness through my friends and family back home. When we connect through the cyber world I can literally see the winter weight lift and their faces brightening (not that any of them were ever not-bright and beautiful)! So I wanted to write a post with those lovely people in mind.

Spring time to me is all about freshness, colour and... cleaning. And I'm not just talking about spring cleaning the bedroom, kitchen or desk at work. I think this time of year calls for a decent boost and clear out of our insides. I like to do this by filling my body with nourishing foods and aiding my digestive system in to a healthy, ultimate functioning mode. 

My first step is to drink drink drink the goodness - sometimes in the form of a fresh vegetable and fruit juice, but most of the time as a smoothie. Enjoying one of these puppies for breakfast is a perfect way to start the day. This week's Grime Fighter Smoothie kicks some serious ass - filling you with super rich antioxidant foods to help get rid of those mean toxins and grime that creep their way into our system. Sounds like just the ticket for a Spring clean out right?!

Blueberries and chocolate both taste amazing and are packed with antioxidants. So pairing these two together makes for an explosion of healthy-deliciousness. I've given some background on raw cacao in this post here. It's worth taking a look, especially if you're interested in some of the key differences between raw cacao and cocoa. It's pretty awesome to learn that something so yummy can be so good for you. Raw cacao not only has extremely high antioxidant levels, but it's magnesium-rich qualities can help promote healthy heart function and good circulation along with nerve, muscle and bone strength.

Antioxidants and Blueberries - We're exposed to free radicals (the bad little molecules that latch on to our cells and destroy healthy tissue) due to natural chemical processes in our body and from the environment (air pollution, cigarette smoke etc). Sometimes, no matter how 'clean' we try to live our lives, it's hard to avoid their effects. This is why we should all love antioxidant rich food because antioxidants can help our body to fight infection and rebuild damaged cells by neutralising free radicals. Blueberries are full of antioxidant nutrients which can help repair and protect against tissue damage within our muscles and in a range of body systems like the cardiovascular system and nervous system.

Hemp Protein - So while I was getting all excited, piling blueberries and cacao into my blender, I thought I'd take it one step further and throw in some hemp protein. Hemp protein is a bi-product of pressed hemp seeds. This superfood is oh-so-super because it contains all of the essential amino acids our body needs, making it a complete protein which is not so easy to find in plant based foods. Protein is really important - it provides strength and support to the tissue all throughout our body, and is needed for muscle repair and building. Hemp protein is also a great source of essential fatty acids - omega 3 and 6 - and provides them in the ideal ratio for our body to utilise. Essential fatty acids give us an effecient energy source while promoting and supporting all things good for our bodies - healthy heart, nerve, muscle and brain function, bone strength, circulation and healthy cell growth. Why would I not add a scoop of this to my smoothie?? Make me strong to fight the grime I say. 

So if you're after a way to kick the winter slumps, starting yourself on a spring transformation or just wanting to maintain a healthy balanced bod at any time of year - give the Grime Fighter Smoothie a go!

the chocolate blueberry grime fighter 

1 frozen banana*
1 cup blueberries - frozen or fresh
1 Tbls hemp protein powder
1 heaped Tbls raw cacao
2 Tbls of raw almonds - I had sliced almonds on hand, but whole almonds work too
1 Tbls honey
3-4 ice cubes**
1 cup of water 

Add all ingredients to a blender, and blend until smooth. It's that easy. Feel free to add more or less water to thicken or thin the consistency.

* I usually add frozen bananas to my smoothie. Having a smoothie icy fresh is pretty crucial - warm room temp banana just doesn't cut it for me. Plus, that way I can buy a bunch and not worry about them over ripening. Before you freeze them, peel and chop each banana into four or five pieces (I make them the same-ish size so I know how many bits to grab when I need one banana). Freeze pieces separated on a tray, and bag together once frozen which will prevent them sticking together.

** Add more ice cubes if you are not using frozen bananas or frozen blueberries. It really makes a difference when this smoothie is icy cold!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

crunchy red vegetable, roasted kumara and lentil salad

Well, here we are just a few days short of September. The heat in Korea is still really intense. I've forgotten what it's like to sleep with any covers and the days are humid, building to afternoons of late summer rain. Everywhere I turn, lush green plants and bush form the landscapes. Its a pretty cool sight to see this much green in the summer and is such a contrast to the golden plains and dry sun in New Zealand. 

Whether gold or green though, I'm always happy when the weather is warm! In fact I'm feeling pretty lucky, because this year I'm getting one loooooong summer. In just two weeks I'm saying goodbye to Korea and taking off. I'll be hitting the streets of Southeast Asia, then heading home to New Zealand just in time for the warmer months there to start shining. Korea started heating up in May and if all goes to plan, New Zealand will follow suit as it did earlier this year and extend it's upcoming summer right out into April. Boom! That's one whole year of summer love for me.

If you had a read of my last post you'll be well aware that I love salad. And due to my extended summer, salads have been making repeat appearances on my lunch and dinner (and sometimes even breakfast) menu. 

If you're not on the salad band wagon yet, I really want to help change your thoughts. My lovely manfriend used to scoff at me when I'd suggest we eat a salad. I could literally see his brain ticking over... "this girl and her salads - 'I'll just have the salad thanks' - that's not going to satisfy, let alone fill me up. No THANK YOU!". But I wasn't having a bar of it. A few taste-tester evenings, some lentils, chickpeas, roasted vegetables and a selection of delicous dressings later - he was hooked! My mission of turning this anti-salad-king into a salad-loving-advocate was complete.  No lie. It just took some experimenting and a little encouragement so he'd actually try preparing and eating a few different salads combos. 

Now I want to work on you! Take this post as a little push - kind encouragement - to motivate you to jump inside your kitchen and start preparing, chopping and cooking up some salad storms. Take just one step at a time and start here with this crunchy red vegetable, roasted kumara and lentil salad. 

I should also mention (because I'm aware I've gone on plenty about the heat and summer in this blog) that I haven't forgotten about the lovely people back home who aren't sitting in 30 plus degrees. Today's dish is lovely served warm or on the side of any winter meal. Plus!... Spring is just around the corner so it can't hurt to jump on board now and start sussing out some fresh new recipes.

Kumara - Kumara is what gives this salad its sweetness and texture. If you're reading outside of New Zealand then you'll be wondering what on earth I'm talking about. Kumara is a Maori word and translates as sweet potato - a term I'm sure most of you are more familiar with. I grew up using the name kumara and it's stuck. The Korean name for sweet potato is Goguma (고구마). They sound similar to me, goguma and kumara. I like that two different native cultures - Maori and Korean - which have both influenced me to a great extent, have that link. All be it a small link, I connected with it! I loved kumara as a child and it's my all time favourite roast vegetable. So I guess I found it comforting to see them all through the markets here in Korea.

Sweet potatoes are seriously friendly to our bods. They have a relatively low glycemic index especially compared to their cousin the white potato. Foods with a low glycemic index don't give us those rapid spikes in blood glucose levels which then inevitably come crashing back down and leave us feeling lethargic and craving calories. By avoiding this roller-coaster type response we take pressure of our pancreas which works overtime to keep levels balanced, avoid post-meal body crashes and cravings and feel full for longer. Sweet potatoes are also super packed with beta carotene which is considered a great antioxidant that helps to neutralize toxins in the body. They have anti-inflammatory properties too that can help heal and sooth our digestive system and to top it all off, these sweeties provide us with a great source of fibre, vitamin C, B6 and loads of vitamin A (which our body converts from all that beta carotene).

I'm a sucker for a good old fashioned roasted spud, but the brighter and more colourful a vegetable - the more antioxidants it beholds. Sweet potatoes - usually red, orange or purple in colour - are a comforting, filling and health boosting vege with the added bonus of a rich sweetness that makes them oh so delicious! 
crunchy red vegetable, roasted kumara and lentil salad

1 cup cooked brown lentils*
1 large kumara or 2-3 small to medium size - cut into small cubes (I usually aim for 2-3 lightly packed cups once chopped)
generous helping of garlic cloves (I throw in 8 or so)
1 heaped tsp cumin seeds
olive oil for roasting
1 heaped cup diced red cabbage 
1 medium diced red onion 
1 cup chopped tomato (I like to use cherry tomatoes for a burst of freshness and flavour)
1 medium cucumber seeded and chopped 
1 handful of spinach roughly chopped
1 handful of fresh parsley, mint, coriander or a combination of all three roughly chopped.

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp cumin powder
pinch of cinnamon
1 Tbls honey 

Arrange kumara and garlic in a roasting dish and coat with cumin seeds and olive oil (approx 1-2 Tbls). Set in an oven at 180 degrees and bake till kumara and garlic are turning a burnt gold colour and the cloves are soft. Usually about 25 minutes in my oven, but it only takes 15 in my Mum's - so just keep an eye on them and turn them once during cooking. While they are in the oven prepare and chop red cabbage, red onion, tomatoes, cucumber and spinach and add to a large salad bowl with the lentils. When the kumara is ready, leave to cool before adding to the bowl with half of the herbs. Stir together. 

For the dressing, add ingredients to a jar and shake till combined. Pour three quarters of the dressing over the salad and mix through. Have a taste and decide whether you'd like to pour over the rest and add a few extra grinds of cracked pepper and salt. Serve in a large salad bowl or individual bowls and finish with a sprinkling of left over herbs. Enjoy as a side to a main dish or eat on its own in all its glory, as I do!

If you'd like this dish served a little warm - add the kumara to the salad bowl before it has completely cooled. If you cook your own lentils keep them warm too. If you buy lentils pre-cooked, choose your own method to re-heat before adding to them to the salad.

*If you are cooking your own lentils, for this dish look out for brown or french green rather than split lentils. They hold together well after cooking and won't turn to mush. I like to cook my own to avoid unnecessary additives, but I know supermarkets back home stock pre-cooked options in a can that are pretty user friendly!
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