Winter Warm Risottos

Unless your living in Brisbane you probably don’t believe me that I am freezing right now. Winter in the sunshine state is has become bone chilling. To stay warm I’ve been drinking lots of herbal teas and warm meals of roasted vegetables, soups and risottos. These are a couple non traditional risotto’s that I have been enjoying over the past week.

I’ve never added quinoa to a risotto before. But I often cook a quinoa brown rice blend which is delicious and a pain to clean out of the rice cooker. Quinoa gives an extra protein kick to this risotto and doesn’t compromise the taste at all.

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Roasted Pumpkin and Quinoa Risotto (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

1/4 kent or butternut pumpkin, sliced into thin pieces

1/2 large or 1 small head of garlic

olive oil

1 cup arborio rice

1 cup quinoa

1 medium onion, diced

1/2 cup white wine

1 litre vegetable stock

2 cups baby spinach

1/4 cup nutritional yeast (optional)

sea salt and black pepper to taste

italian parsley to garnish (optional)

Method:

1. Preheat oven 200 degrees.

2. Place pumpkin and garlic head in an baking tray and drizzle about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Roast for 30 minutes or until both are soft.  Once both are cooked well place in a small bowl and mash with a fork. Keep it aside to add to the risotto.

3. Take a pot and fill with the vegetable stock and leave to boil, then place on a simmer.

4. In the meantime take another large pot and heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. Then add the onion. Cook till it softens

5. Add aborbio rice and quinoa to pot and let it toast for a few minutes.

6. Add the wine to the pot and cook until its been absorbed.

7. By this time the liquid stock should have boiled. Begin by ladling a spoon full at a time of the hot liquid stock to the rice and constantly stir. Once one spoon full has been absorbed into the rice, add another spoon full. Continue for  cooking for 15 mins or until the rice and quinoa is cooked

8. Add the mashed pumpkin and garlic. Stir through and then add baby spinach. Continue to stir until the baby spinach has wilted.

9. Take off the heat, then add the nutritional yeast and season with extra seasalt and black pepper. Serve with some chopped parsley.

*Serves 4

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Cauliflower has historically been one of my most hated vegetables from birth. My mum use to steam or microwave it with cheese and bechamel. I never liked cheese and always found cauliflower to be strange in texture and bland in taste. But I have a new love for cauliflower now. I love using it in Italian pasta dishes to coat pasta. It also tastes amazing in soups, on pizza, roasted and in a pie.  Here are some of my favourite cauliflower dishes that get the Marco tick of approval.

Pasta al Cavolfiore

Penne al Cavolfiore

Cauliflower Red Onion and Garlic Pizza

Roasted Cauliflower, Beets, Capsicum and Chickpeas with Tahini Sumac Dressing

Roasted Cauliflower Soup

Roasted Cauliflower Steak

Broccoli & Cauliflower Pakoras

Spicy Roasted Cauliflower and Corn Soup

Cauliflower Cheezy Thyme Pie

For this Cauliflower Risotto I used both the stalks and florets of the cauliflower.  I diced the stalks and sautéed them with the onions and added the florets to the vegetable stock which I ladled to cook the risotto. I stole this idea from Jamie Oliver’s Cauliflower risotto (Risotto ai cavalfiori). Its a great way not to waste any of that cauliflower goodness.

Oh and by the way in case you haven’t tried Kale with Pine nuts and Raisins put it on your to do list. The bitter, sweet and nutty flavors make it one of my favourite side dishes and goes great on top of this Cauliflower Risotto.

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Cauliflower Risotto topped with Sautéed Tuscan Kale with Pine Nuts and Raisins 

Cauliflower Risotto (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups arborio rice

1 medium onion, diced

2-3 garlic cloves, diced

1/2 medium cauliflower, dice stalks and chop the florets, keeping each separate

1/2 cup white wine

1 litre vegetable stock

handful italian parsley leaves, diced

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

sea salt & black pepper

Method:

1.Take a pot and fill with the vegetable stock and cauliflower florets and leave to boil, then place on a simmer.

2. In the meantime take another large pot and heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. Then add the onion, garlic and diced cauliflower stalk. Cook for a couple of mintues.

3. Add aborbio rice and let it toast for a few minutes.

4. Add the wine to the pot and cook until its been absorbed.

5. By this time the liquid stock should have boiled. Begin by ladling a spoon full at a time of the hot liquid stock with the cauliflower florets to the rice. Stir constantly and mash the cauliflower florets as it cooks. Once one spoon full has been absorbed into the rice, add another spoon full. Continue for  cooking for 15 mins or until the rice  is cooked

6. Take off the heat, then add the nutritional yeast and italian parsley. Season with extra sea salt and black pepper.

7. Serve with Sautéed Tuscan Kale with Pine Nuts and Raisins (recipe below)

*Serves 4

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Sautéed Tuscan Kale with Pine Nuts and Raisins (vegan, gluten free, soy free)

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1-2 garlic cloves, diced

bunch tuscan kale, chopped into ribbons

1-2 tablespoons golden raisins

1-2 tablespoons pinenuts

Method:

1. Heat olive oil in a pan. Then add the garlic cook for about a minute

2. Add the kale, raisins and pine nuts. Saute until the kale has wilted.

3. Serve on top of the Cauliflower Risotto or as a side dish.

*Serves 2-4 as a side

For more risotto recipes check these out:

Sweet Potato Sage Risotto with Hazelnut ‘Parmesan’

Green Spring Risotto

Risotto alla zucca (Pumpkin Risotto)

Risotto ai funghi porcini (Mushroom Risotto)

Red Wine Barley & Brown Rice Risotto with Mushrooms & Spinach

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High hopes…

Hi all, hope you all had a great weekend! We spent the weekend and most of last week organizing to go to auction for our dream house. Unfortunately although we won the auction we didn’t get the house. The owner had really unrealistic expectations of price that they only made clear the day of the auction and would not budge. It was a bit disappointing, but at least I can sleep again. Most of last week I spent tossing and turning and stressing. So its Monday morning and I’m feeling more refreshed for the week. Things could still turn around, but we will just have to wait and see.

Besides stressing about the house I spent most of last week stressing about something else. I admit since I have started my job I have put on a little weight. I spend most of the day sitting down and have found it difficult to exercise in the evenings. Beside that winter has continued into spring, I am just generally exhausted at night and have lacked motivation. However this week someone I won’t mention was not going to let me think my weight gain has gone unnoticed. I was just so embarrassed and upset that I spent the rest of the weekend trying to sustain a mostly liquid diet. All that I achieved was giving myself a migraine, being short tempered with even one and hating myself. It wasn’t until the end of the week that I realized that I don’t need to change myself for someone else. I am still a healthy size 10 and it is expected that a change in my lifestyle was going to impact my body. Which is something that I can bounce back from once I get use to my routine. People who make nasty comments only do it for their own satisfaction. It is not out of care, but to highlight imperfect in someone else to mask their own insecurities. Instead of being motivated by someone else’s jealousy, I rather be motivated by my own need to live the healthiest life I can. So I have been trying to make more of an effort to walk my dogs and be active. Looking forward to the sun staying out a little longer as we get further into spring.

Anyhow on a brighter subject, as I mentioned I tried to live on a most liquid diet. But I still had to eat some solid foods. I tried to keep it as light as possible, but I certainly wasn’t going to eat lettuce leaves. I am really not a fan of plain old lettuce tomato and cucumber as a main meal. So to sprice up my salad I added some roasted Japanese eggplant and sweet potato. This is now my favourite way to have Japanese eggplant. I just chopped them in half and lightly brush some oil roast for 20-30 mins. They taste great in a salad with Agave & Tahini Dressing. I also prepared them to accompany a Roasted Garlic, Cherry Tomato Coconut Oat soup. Marco wasn’t a big fan of oats in soup, but I just wanted to see what it would be like. It wasn’t bad, but still needs so fine tuning. A recipe I did include was Quinoa Sushi with Red Onion, Cucumber and Mayo. Marco was a bit freaked out about quinoa in sushi, but he ended up loving it. The combination was surprisingly really nice and didn’t feel like anything was really missing.

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Quinoa Sushi with Red Onion, Cucumber and Mayo (vegan, gluten free, nut free)

Ingredients:

white quinoa

rice wine vinegar

mirin

sea salt

red onion diced

cucumber sliced

Soy Mayonnaise/vegan mayonnaise

nori sheets

Method:

1. Cook quinoa according to packet directions. Then let it cool down and add some rice wine vinegar, mirin and sea salt to taste.

2. In the meantime combine the diced red onion with mayonnaise.

3. Lay out the nori sheet then add a layer of quinoa. Then in the centre add red onion and 3 slices of cucumber.

4. Roll up the nori sheet then slice and serve.

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I have been a bit slack continuing my Cookbook Project for the recipe book Energise Your Life: Release Your Natural Energy. After the Aloo Gobi debacle, I was a bit hesitant to try something else.  I finally got all the ingredients together the Vegetable crumble, so here it is. My family really liked this recipe. I quite liked it too, but I did find the crumble a bit dry. I had a feeling when I was adding the crumble that it was a bit floury and thick, but I decided to trust in the recipe. Turns out my instincts were right and there wasn’t enough vegan butter to make the crumble that hard and crusty, so it was a bit on the floury side. But nevertheless I really liked this recipe.

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Vegetable Crumble (vegan, gluten free option, soy free)

To make this recipe you will need:

1 onion sliced

2 medium carrots, sliced

2 sticks of celery, sliced

1/4 cabbage, shredded/sliced

125g vegan butter

200g organic flour

2 tablespoons flaked almonds, plus more to garnish

225g tomatoes (about 3 small)

125g hazel nuts, chopped

1 tablespoons yeast (I used 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast) mixed with 175 ml boiling water

sea salt & black pepper to taste

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First I preheated the oven to 180 degrees and slicing all the vegetables and nuts. Then I melted half the Nutlex in a large pan on medium to low heat. Then sautéed the vegetables till they were soft.

While they were cooking, I adding the flour (minus 1 tablespoon of flour), half the butter and 2 tablespoons of flaked almonds into the blender and blended it. I also dropped the tomatoes into boiled water for a minute, then peeled and chopped them.

When the vegetables were starting to soften I added the hazelnuts top heat through, then added1 tablespoon of flour.

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Next I added the nutritional yeast mixed with the water, chopped tomatoes sea salt and black pepper. I allowed it to thicken a little before taking it off the heat.

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I placed the vegetables into a greased casserole tray. Then topped it with the crumble mixture and some extra flaked almonds. I baked that for 1 hour. Since my crumble looked a bit floury I added a bit of spray oil on the top and cooked it for a further 5 minutes. I think it did help to get make the top a bit more crispy.

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This was the result. It does look a bit dry but actually the vegetables underneath were moist and caramelized nicely. It serves enough for 6.

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The cook book recommended servicing it with steamed green beans and corn, which actually really went well with the Vegetable Crumble. I just sliced the corn off the cob and chopped fresh green beans. Green beans and corn do taste a lot better fresh then frozen. Steamed they taste great, all they needed was a bit of sea salt.

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I really did like this recipe and I think its both Marco and kid friendly. It can easily be made gluten free, using gluten free flour. The only think I recommend is using less flour in the crumble.

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Falafel, Tabouli, Pita Pockets…

I have been a bit lazy lately with cooking. I have been eating out a lot more on the weekends. So this weekend I wanted to make something healthy and special. I’ve had this bag of Fava beans for a while now, so I wanted to try making Falafel. I have never made it before, so thought I’d give it ago. The Fava beans took nearly 24 hours to soak, as they are very hard and need time for the skin detach from the skin. It took me nearly an hour to peel the skins off 500 g of them, but the results were worth it.

I decided to bake my Falafel so that they would be a bit more healthier. I also filled the mixture with heaps of fresh herbs from my local Asian market. To go with it I made Wholemeal Flax Seed Pita Pockets,  Lemon Cashew Yoghurt and Kale & Quinoa Tabouli. By the time I got our late lunch on the table it was dinner time, so the whole family got to eat with us. Everyone really liked and had seconds or thirds.

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Wholemeal Flax Seed Pita Bread (vegan, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

1.5 cup warm water

2 teaspoons instant yeast

1/2 teaspoon raw sugar

1 teaspoon sea salt

3.5 cups wholemeal flour (more for board)

2 teaspoons ground flax seeds

1 teaspoon olive oil

canola spray oil

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Method:

1. Take 1/4 of warm water and add yeast and sugar. Leave it for 10 mins.DSC06658

2. In a large mixing bowl add 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, ground flax seeds and sea salt.???????????????????????????????

3. Make a well in the centre and add the yeast mixture.???????????????????????????????

4. Gradually add more the rest of the flour and warm water until you have a dough.

5. Knead the dough for 10-15 mins, until it is nice and elastic.

6. Brush a bowl with olive oil and leave the dough to rise for an hour or more (the longer the better).

7. Divide the dough into 10 balls. Then roll each ball out into a flat circle shape.

8. Heat a pan on high and spray with canola. Place the flat dough onto the pan and cook it till it puffs up. Make sure you turn it regularly so it doesn’t burn. It should only take 1-2 mins per pita.

9. While the pita is still hot, slice it in half.

*Makes 10 Pita Pockets

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Baked Fava bean Falafel (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

500g fava beans (soaked 24 hrs, then peeled)

6 garlic cloves

1 brown onion

3 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1/2 bunch coriander

1/2 bunch dill

1/2 bunch parsley

sea salt & black pepper

Method:???????????????????????????????

1. After soaking the fava beans, peel off the skin and boil for 30 mins or until softened.

2. Finely chop the garlic, onion and all the herbs.

3. Place the fava beans in a process and make into a paste. Then add all the spices, onion, garlic, herbs and sea salt & pepper to taste.

4. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

5. Make the mixture into balls and place on a nonstick tray. Bake for 20 mins.

*Makes 25-30

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Lemon Cashew ‘Yoghurt’ (vegan, raw, gluten free, soy free)

Ingredients:

1 cup cashews (pre-soaked/raw)

1 cup water

2 garlic cloves

3 tablespoons lemon juice (more to taste)

1 tablespoon olive oil

sea salt to taste

Method:

1. If you haven’t soaked the cashews then boil them for 10 mins.

2. In a Vitamix or high speed blender the cashews. Break them down, then slowly add 1/2 a cup of water. Blend till it becomes creamy.

3. Add garlic, lemon juice and olive oil and blend. If you need add more water to break down into a cream, but not too much, it should be thick.

*Makes 1 cup

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Kale & Quinoa Tabouli (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

1.5-2 cups kale, chopped

4 shallots or green onions, chopped

1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped

3 teaspoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 cup cooked quinoa

sea salt to taste

Method:

1. Cook quinoa according to packet instructions. Then strain and allow to cool.

2. Massage the chopped kale with sea salt to break down the fibers.

3. Combine the kale quinoa and all the remaining ingredients and serve.

*Serves 4 as side salad

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Over the weekend we ended up visiting The Green Edge on our way to visit hopefully our future house. I decided to try something different so I ordered the Noodle Bowl. It had soba noodles with twice-cooked pumpkin, served in a soy sauce-miso-shiitake broth. I doesn’t look like much but it was really nice. There was pumpkin all under the noodles as well. The rest of the family had their amazing vegan burgers, chips and salad. This was the first time my mums partner had been there. Of course his response was ‘I can believe its vegan’.

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My new favourite drink at the moment is this Frozen Peach Smoothie. I forgot about all the peaches that I froze a while ago. With the kiwi, banana and milk it tastes just like a peach ice cream.

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Frozen Peach Smoothie (vegan, raw, gluten free, nut free, soy free)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup frozen peaches

1 golden kiwi

1/2 banana

1/2 cup plant milk (coconut, rice or oat; almond or soy if you can tolerate)

Method:

1. Blend in a High speed blender and serve

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Over the weekend I finally tried something else that’s been in my cupboard for a while. Celebrate Health is a new brand that started appearing on supermarket shelves. Their range includes flavoured lentils, quinoa, recipe bases and stock. All their products are Gluten free, Wheat free, Dairy free, Tree nut free, Peanut free, 100% natural and Preservative free. Most are also vegan and Soy free. I had the Indian Marsala Lentil Packet. So I made this with some brown rice and Indian spiced greens. I just followed the packet directions, which were easy to understand. I ended up having to add alot more water, as it dried out quickly. They had more of a bite then I thought they would. Usually when I made red lentils they dissolve a little, but these ones didn’t.

So the verdict? Well they were quite salty and the spices weren’t that strong. They were definitely not as tasty as if I made them from scratch. However, they were quick, convenient and healthy side dish. I think I will definitely try some more of their products for those nights when I am too tired to cook anything fancy.

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Sweet Veggie Dinner and a visit to KU-O

Hi all, tonight I experiment a bit and put some things together that I don’t usually do. Instead of making cashew cream like I have been doing a lot lately, I tried making almond butter cream. I made it to go with these delicious Japanese Sweet Potatoes that I got from the Rocklea market the other day. This variety is very sweet, but they taste a lot different to regular sweet potatoes. They have really deep purple skin, but the flesh is white inside. I really recommend them. On the side I made some roasted miso glaze vegetables and a quinoa salad. With the leftover almond butter I made a mousse with blueberries an chia seeds. Everything was naturally sweetened and entirely gluten free and full of nutrients.

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Whole Roasted Japanese Sweet Potatoes with Almond Cinnamon Butter (vegan, gluten free, soy free)

Ingredients:

2 whole japanese sweet potatoes

grapeseed oil or canola oil

1/2 cup almonds

1/2 cup filtered water

1 teaspoon agave

pinch of sea salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons coconut oil

Method:

1. Preheat the oven. Clean and scrub sweet potatoes.

2. Coat in oil and place in a baking tray. Piece a few times with a fork along the sweet potato, then bake for 45 mins.???????????????????????????????

3. In the meantime bring a small pot to the boil, then add the almonds and boil for 10 mins.

4. Strain the almonds and rinse with cold water to cool them down. Then remove the skins.

5. Then place almonds in the blender/processor. First grind till the almonds break up as much as they can. Then slowly add the water and process until it becomes a smooth cream.

6. Add agave, sea salt, cinnamon and coconut oil/butter. Mix until combined the n set to the side.

7. When sweet potatoes are soft, slice down the center and serve with the Almond Butter.

*Almond Butter makes about 1 cup. Cook more sweet potatoes if serving for more people.

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Miso Glaze Roasted Brussel Spouts, Lotus Root and Garlic (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 tablespoon brown rice syrup

1 teaspoon white miso

8 brussels sprouts

6 slices lotus root

4 garlic cloves, peeled

sea salt to taste???????????????????????????????

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.???????????????????????????????

2. If your coconut oil isn’t liquid then lightly heat to liquidize  I just used a small stainless steel bowl over a pot of boiling water. Then combine the liquid coconut oil with miso paste and brown rice syrup.

3. Coat the brussels sprouts, lotus root and garlic  cloves with the mixture. Cook for 30 mins or until brussels sprouts are cooked. Season with sea salt before serving.

*Serves 2

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Asparagus & Cherry Tomato Quinoa Salad (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients:

1 bunch of asparagus, remove ends and chop

1/2 cup quinoa

1 red onion, sliced

olive oil

handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1-2 tablespoons minced parsley

sea salt to taste

Method:

1. Bring a small pot of water to the boil, then cook the asparagus they are tender. Rinse with cold water and place to the side.

2. In the same water cook the quinoa, according to packet directions. Then strain.

3. Heat a drop of olive oil in a nonstick pan, then cook red onion for 5-10 mins.

4. Combine the asparagus, quinoa, red onion, cherry tomatoes, parsley and sea salt, then serve.

*Serves 1 as a main or 2-3 as a side dish

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Almond Blueberry Chia Mousse (vegan, gluten free, soy free)

Ingredients:

Almond Cinnamon Butter (from above)

1/4 cup frozen blueberries

agave to taste

2 tablespoons chia seeds

Method:

1. Add frozen blueberries to the Almond Cinnamon Butter in the processor. Process until blueberries have broken down.

2. Add agave to taste and whiz again to combine.

3. Turn of processor then add chia seeds.

4. Place in the fridge for at least 20 mins. Then enjoy. Its even better the next day!

*Serves 1-2

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I also wanted to share another food find. In Sunnybank at the famous Market Square, a new Japanese Restaurant has opened. Its called KU-O Japanese Restaurant. It appeared really small from the front. But once you walk in it is very pretty. I noticed there were many tofu options to replace meat or fish in the dishes. I ordered the Tofu Teriyaki Don. It was quite nice and filling. We really like this place and will defiantly return. It’s a nice improvement to Market Square.

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Whole Baked Sweet Potato with Mixed Bean Chili, Guacamole and Quinoa Salad

Believe it or not I have never baked a whole sweet potato before. When I was kid, mum use to make ‘potatoes in their jackets’ (baked spuds), but I haven’t had them in years. I think I am in love! They were so delicious and sweet. I can’t believe what I have been missing out on all this time. This is definitely going to have to be a part of our regular weeknight dinner rotation. It also went really well the the chili. The savory, spicy flavor toned down the sweetness of the sweet potato. The guacamole and salad really brought a fresh taste to the main event as well. Avocados are still expensive and very hard at the moment. We bought a whole heap of small ones the other day and they all went ripe at the same time. Can’t wait for the big soft ones to be back in season for breakfast.

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Whole Roasted Sweet Potato with Mixed Bean Chilli (vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut free)

Ingredients for Sweet Potato:

4 medium size sweet potato, olive oil to coat

Ingredients for Chili:

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, diced

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon onion flake or onion powder

1 tablespoon ground sweet paprika

1/2 tablespoon chilli powder or ground cayenne pepper

1/2 tablespoon dried oregano

400g can diced tomatoes

1 tablespoon agave or raw sugar

400g can mixed beans

sea salt & black pepper to taste

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Clean and scrub sweet potatoes. Then coat in oil and place in a baking tray. Piece a few times with a fork along the sweet potato, then bake for 45 mins.???????????????????????????????

2. Heat olive oil in a pan, then add onion and garlic and saute for 2 mins.???????????????????????????????

3. Add cumin, onion flakes, sweet paprika, chili powder and dried oregano. Continue to cook for 3 mins or until fragrant and onions are have softened. ???????????????????????????????

4. Add diced tomatoes, agave, sea salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then leave it to simmer for 20.

5. Add the beans then cook for another 5-10 mins. Adjust seasoning if you need to.

6. When sweet potatoes are ready slice long ways to open up the flesh.

*Serve with Chili on top of the Sweet Potato. Also serve with Guacamole or Vegan Sour Cream.

*Serves 4

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Creamy Guacamole (gf, nf)

Ingredients:

2 large avocados

1/2 lime

2-3 tablespoons tofutti ‘cream cheese’ (optional)

sea salt to taste

Method:

1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mash avocado and ‘cream cheese’ until consistent.

*Serves 4 as a side

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Simply Zesty Quinoa Salad (gf, sf, nf)

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup quinoa

1 small red onion, diced

2 large tomatoes, diced

1 stick of celery, diced

2-3 tablespoons diced fresh/frozen parsley/coriander

juice from 1/2 lemon

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon agave (optional)

Method:

1. Cook quinoa according to packet instructions.

2. Once ready and water has completely evaporated (otherwise strain), add the rest of the ingredients to the pot. Season to taste.

*Serves 6 as a side dish.

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Pomogranate and Avocado Quinoa Salad with Sweet Tahini Lime Dressing

I woke up really tired and late this morning, so I needed a power salad to prep me up. This salad is sweet, zesty, earthy and full of nutrients. Hope you guys like it!

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Pomogranate Quinoa Salad with Sweet Tahini Lime Dressing (vegan, gluten free option, soy free)

Ingredients for Salad:

1/2 cup quinoa

1 small stick of celery

1/2 carrot

1 small avocado

1 handful italian parsley

2 handfuls pomogranate seeds

1 handful almonds

extra lime and agave to garnish

Ingredients for Dressing

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon agave

1/2 tablespoon tahini

1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Method:

1. Place quinoa in a small pot with 1 1/2 cups of water. Bring to the boil, then place on a simmer and cook for 15 mins. Strain with cold water and place to the side.

2. In the meantime make the dressing. Combine all the ingredients for the dressing a small bowl and stir through.

3. Then prepare the ingredents for the salad. Slice the celery finely, grate the carrot, slice the avocado in cubes and roughly chop the italian parsley.

4. Roughly chop the almonds then dry toast in a pan till golden.

5. Combine the cooked quinoa, celery, carrot, avocado and italian parsley in a bowl and stir.

6. Then add the dressing to the bowl and stir through

7. Place the quinoa salad on a plate and top with pomogranate seeds, toasted almonds. Serve with extra agave and lime wedges.

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I also wanted to share with you guys another great food find in Carindale, Brisbane. Last night our friends took us to Grand Taj. It is a small Indian restaurant off the main road in a shopping complex. Before going their I checked out their website and they had plenty of vegan and vegetarian options. Some of the dishes I haven’t seen before so I was very excited to try this place.

I ordered the Pumpkin and Eggplant Curry (diced butternut pumpkin and eggplant steamed with onions and flavored with white mustard), which came with Saffron Rice. On the side Marco I shared two Indian Breads, these were Onion Kulcha (bread stuffed with finely chopped seasoned onions and garlic) and Aloo (Potato) Paratha (wholemeal bread stuffed with spiced mashed potatoes). These were also both dairy free. Normally when I go to Indian these stuffed breads are’t dairy free or wholemeal, so this was a nice treat. I especially liked the Onion Kulcha. The onion was all the way through and nicely spiced.

I was really impressed with Grand Taj and I definitely hope to visit them again soon.

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Quinoa Porridge with Mixed Nuts, Seeds and Sultanas

Ever since I discovered Quinoa I feel in love. This little South American grain is so delicious, versatile and healthy! Quinoa (keen-wah) is extremely high in protein, in fact it has just as much as 4 eggs. It has less carbohydrates and higher mineral content then the rest of the grains. It also contains all the essential amino acids that we need. Only one cup has over your daily requirements for manganese, magnesium and iron. However the best thing about this grain is that its packed full of fiber, three times then the other grains [1].

Its also gluten free, which is how I discovered quinoa a few years ago. I had leaky gut syndrome and needed to find alternatives to wheat and other sources of gluten. I also had a mild intolerance to rice, so for me quinoa filled the spot perfectly. It’s really quick to cook and can substitute pretty much anything you can make with rice, including stir-fry, casseroles, stews and sweets.

So why isn’t this ancient grain more popular then rice? Well when the Spanish came to South America they didn’t respect the Inca’s super grain. They thought it was peasant food and decided that rice, corn and potato’s was better.

In Australia its becoming more mainstream, as it begins to creep into the major supermarkets in the health food section. Even some Australian nutritionists, celebrity fitness trainers and chefs are starting to promote it, but not enough that the average person knows what it is. If your in Australia, you can buy organic white/red/black quinoa in Woolworths, Coles and Healthfood shops. The colour doesn’t change the taste or the nutritional property’s,  so its up to you what you choose. A few years back I decided to stuff our Christmas turkey with black quinoa and walnuts. Probably not the best colour, as it turned my family off the stuffing. According to my chef brother, I ‘ruined Christmas’.

When ever I cook quinoa I always make some extra to keep in the fridge, to add to salads and porridge. Last night I made the Stuffed Eggplant Rolls with Quinoa, but this morning I’m making my favourite breakfast treat.

Quinoa Porridge with Mixed Nuts, Seeds and Sultanas (vegan, gluten free, soy free)

Ingredients:

4-5 tablespoons of cooked quinoa

2-3 tablespoons mixed nuts & seeds

1/2 cup plant milk (coconut, rice or oat; almond or soy if you can tolerate)

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

maple syrup or other natural sweetner

1/2 tbsp sultanas

Method:

Dry roasting nuts & seeds

1. Take a small pan and dry roast the nuts and seeds on the stove. Once they are a little brown and have an aroma take off the heat.

2. Take a small pot and add quinoa and enough milk to cover it and turn on medium heat.

3. Add cinnamon and sweetner and take off the heat once it comes to a lite boil.

4. Serve in  a bowl and top with nuts & seeds and sultanas.

*Serves 1

[1] Lieberman, D. & O’Connor, A. 2010, The 10 Things you Need to Eat: And More Than 100 Easy and Delicious Ways to Prepare Them.

Eggplant Rolls stuffed with Quinoa and ‘Mince’

I finally found a good substitute for mince meat. I have tried Quorn, which was very close, but has egg whites so its not vegan. TVP Mince (Lamyong) is vegan and has a very meaty texture. It doesn’t taste like meat of course, but it takes on the taste of whatever you put with it. So I think you could add stock to give it a more meaty taste. I just added soy sauce tonight to give it a richer taste. I have read that TVP Mince is not healthy, but for every now it again its ok. Better then the saturated fats in meat anyway.

We bought a big eggplant and I was thinking of what I could do with it. I didn’t have enough potato’s for moussaka, so I thought I would try and create something new. It turned out well. The stuffing was nice and moist and eggplant was nice and soft. I read a tip in my Chef Chloe book about how to prepare eggplant by sweating. It actually really works and my eggplant was not bitter at all. 

Eggplant Rolls stuffed with Quinoa and ‘Mince’ (vegan, gluten free, nut free)

Ingredients:

1 red onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 cups quinoa, cooked

1 cup TVP Mince (I used Lamyong TVP Mince)

1 large italian eggplant, sliced in large thin pieces

200g tomato pasta sauce

3 tablespoons tamari or gluten free soy sauce

2 tablespoons fresh basil

olive oil for frying

salt and pepper to taste

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees

2. Sweat the eggplants for 20mins. Just need to put eggplant on a tray and cover in plenty of salt. After wipe off the salt and water (that will come out of it).

3. Shallow fry the eggplant, till soft then place on a plate/tray with paper towel, to soak up the oil and let leave it to cool.

4. Cook quinoa according to packet and soak TVP Mince in small amount of water, so its just wet.

5. Heat olive oil in a pot then add onion and garlic and cook for 5mins on medium heat. 

6. Take pot off the heat, add TVP Mince, quinoa, 1/4 cup of passata sauce (or more if mixture is too dry), soy sauce, basil, salt & pepper to taste.

7. Take a 8×10 baking dish and spoon few tablespoons of sauce to cover the bottom.

8. Now you can start rolling the eggplant if they are cool enough. Just place eggplant slice on palm of hand and spoon mixture into the centre and roll each side in and then place into baking dish. 

9. Once you have made all the eggplant rolls cover the top with passata sauce and sprinkle the top with corn crumbs.

10. Cook in the oven for 25mins, till hot all the way through and corn crumbs are a little golden.