Pimped Up Egg ‘n’ Lettuce

I’ve always been a fan of egg and lettuce sandwiches but they’re really a bit average when you consider nutritional value. Sure, there’s super-healthy, protein packed egg but most of the time it’s been mixed with sugar-laden mayonnaise, on white bread. And poor old iceberg lettuce… well, its colour kinda says it all. There’s some water and fibre there but it otherwise doesn’t have a lot else going for it…

I’ve said before that it’s really worth pre-boiling up a few eggs and keeping them in the fridge for ’emergencies’ …or just days of pure laziness, such as I am having. This fine prepatory activity saved me a whole lotta time today. In fact, my lunch was ready in less than four minutes…Food Fervour

All I used was: 2 slices of rye sourdough (a fermented, flavoursome bread) 1 boiled egg, ¼ of a large avocado, 3 think slices of parmesan cheese (you could use any hard cheese but a sharp flavoured one will taste better) & a handful of baby spinach leaves.

Because I keep my bread frozen, I had to thaw them in the toaster …which gave me time to peeled the shell off the egg. Then it was a super simple assembly: avo spread thickly over both pieces, egg slices and laid on one, topped with the parmesan cheese (at this point you could, if you wish, chuck this under the grill to melt that cheese …mmm…) then carefully laid baby spinach (OK, OK, apart from sounding highly OCD, this actually helps you to fit more spinach on the sanger, so it’s less likely to fall out when you eat it. Uh-oh, another OCD statement…) Salt if you prefer, then pop the second slice on top, avo face down (did I really need to spell this out?) and Bob’s your uncle…. a delicious, healthier, more nutrient-dense version of an old favourite.

….that I probably wolfed down in less time than it took to make it… 😛

Advertisements

Veggie Stack

When you’re not particularly hungry, nor inclined to spend a heap of time cooking, but you’re aware that you need to eat some veggies, know that vegetable stacks are pretty easy… and are a relatively easy clean up! Here’s one I threw together a few nights ago:

Food FervourExcuse my (lack of) modesty but damn, it looks kinda good! 😛 And it definitely hit the spot, to boot.

I’m going to describe what I did to create this delicious dish, but bear in mind my directions may be a little askew …not just because I’m a bit hopeless at recording what I do, but also because every grill is different: you’re best off keeping a keen eye on it, checking the contents regularly.

Firstly, I cut 3 slices of eggplant (about 1-1½cm thickness), salting them (both sides) and leaving them to rest, then I switched on the grill (high) and filled a small saucepan about 1cm deep with water, over high heat on the stove. While it was coming to a boil, I cut a 1-1½cm thick slice of butternut pumpkin (from the top end, where it’s solid fruit flesh, not the seed cavity) and trimmed off the thin skin, then popped it in the saucepan. Once boiling, I turned the heat down to low, so the pumpkin could simmer.

I next cut 2 quarters of a red capsicum (trimming the ends and removing seeds and veins), rubbed them with extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and placed them skin-side up under the grill.  Waiting for the skins to blacken, I grabbed haloumi and baby spinach leaves from the fridge and pine nuts & my beloved caramelised balsamic vinegar from the pantry. Then I cut 3 (approx 5mm thick) slices of the cheese.

Turning the pumpkin slice over in the saucepan, I checked the capsicum: it was charring nicely. I washed the salt from the eggplant slices, patted them dry with paper towel then rubbed them with EVOO as well. The capsicum was ready to turn under the grill so I made room for the eggplant slices too.

Fishing the pumpkin out of the saucepan (it was just softened; not all the way through) I dried it off with some paper towel then oiled it with the EVOO (yeah, it was still pretty warm but I have pretty tough, heat-resilient finger pads!) so it was ready to take the place of the capsicum under the grill. When it seemed soft enough, I made the swap – turning the eggplant over at the same time – and let the capsicum rest skin side up on the chopping board. Unlike me, it’s best to exercise patience if you can and wait for the capsicum to cool before you try to remove the burnt skin. The common way to do this is with clingwrap but I use a small paring knife and my fingers to lift, peel and cut off the stubborn bits. Apart from impatience and/or laziness, I prefer not to use the clingwrap method for environmental and health reasons.

When the eggplant was ready to remove, the haloumi slices took their place and I turned over the pumpkin. From here on in, it was a waiting game, by the grill, knowing the cheese wouldn’t need too long under the heat. I took the pumpkin and haloumi out at the same time, but when I turned off the grill I popped the pine nuts under it. You see, I always burn pine nuts …because I forget about them. So under a cooling grill they’re more likely to end up lightly toasted than charred.

Food fervourI started assembling the stack with some baby spinach leaves on the plate, underneath the pumpkin (but I’ve also thrown them in between layers (see pic right) then laid down an eggplant slice, followed by haloumi and then the capsicum, repeating again and finishing with the last eggplant and haloumi slices. I drizzled my caramelised balsamic vinegar over the top (if you can’t get your hands on this delicacy simply add 1 tablespoon of EVOO and 2 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar to a small jar, tighten the cap and shake vigorously) then sprinkled the pine nuts over the top.

It can prove interesting trying to cut into the stack in a way that allows you to get all of the layers in one fork-full but that should be the least of your worries. A ‘deconstructed’ stack tastes just as good. 😉

Black Beans & Quinoa ‘Casserole’

I’ve got a ‘thing’ for black beans lately. Maybe it’s simply because they seem to be in vogue at the moment, but what I keep thinking of is their colour: it’s almost a nutritional fact that the richest, deepest coloured plant foods seem to be the most nutrient dense. Also known as turtle beans, they’re a ridiculously good source of protein, fibre, some vitamins & minerals. So I have a very large jar of them in my pantry. Because I don’t buy tinned products, I don’t even know if you can get these fellas pre-cooked in Australian supermarkets; I mean, I’ve never looked. I prefer to DIY. Y’know, prepare ‘from scratch’.Food Fervour

Because they’re a relatively new to my repertoire, I’m not quite sure what to do with them. Mexican predominantly comes to mind when I’m pondering what to make, but I often just throw them into salads as well. This time however, I wanted warm comfort food …and quinoa. I’d noticed a few black-bean-and-quinoa recipes floating around the net in the past, so I was confident I’d find something I wanted. And I did: three recipes, all quite similar… so I literally flipped between windows/tabs during the cook.

Having previously soaked, then slow cooked (overnight) the black beans, they were now ready to go. (Unfortunately I can’t recall the dry weight I began with, however I was lucky enough to have the exact quantity required for the recipe(s!) ….250gms.

This makes an absolute tonne, so as a single person I got about 4-5 meals out of it… and it tastes great cold so you don’t need to reheat it every time you want some. I should imagine it would freeze well too if you’d prefer to do that.

The ingredients I used were as follows:
a good dollop of EVOO, 1 diced onion, 1-2 finely chopped garlic cloves, ¾ cup (well) rinsed quinoa, 1 teaspoon cumin, ½ teaspoon chili powder, 1½ cups vege stock, black pepper & salt to taste, corn kernels (I used frozen) 250gm pre-soaked & cooked black beans, 200gm baby spinach.

In a large saucepan (over medium heat) add the oil then the onion and garlic, cooking for about 3 minutes or until the onion softens.

Add the quinoa, blending with the oil, onion & garlic, then add the cumin, chili powder, vegetable stock and black pepper. Give it a mix, increase the heat and once it has come to a boil, drop the heat back to low, pop on the lid and let it simmer for 20 minutes. Give it an occasional stir (mainly to loosen anything sticking to the saucepan base).

Finally, add the corn, beans and baby spinach, stirring gently then covering again for about 5-10 minutes …however long it takes to warm the beans, wilt the spinach and thaw the corn (if using frozen, like me).

Food FervourTo serve, use your imagination! You could easily just hoe in as it is, but I like to add more nutrients, so I went with a ‘warm salad’ theme and topped my serve with chopped avocado, fresh chopped tomato and crumbled feta. For a Mexican feel you could substitute my idea with (home made!) guacamole, (homemade!) tomato salsa and grated cheese ….as well as bit of sour cream (oooh! I just realised this would make a delicious vegetarian nachos topping!)

The next day I ate a serve cold, topped with freshly steamed broccoli, more feta (!) and a boiled egg for extra protein (pictured above). Go crazy …and don’t forget to let me know what you create. 😉

 

Orange Salmon Salad

Gotta say, I’m pretty bloody pleased with this one. I’ve had salmon and orange together before but this will be memorable.Food Fervour

It began with my usual Google search: orange + salmon + salad + recipes. Most of the results were just marinades for salmon, not a complete meal, per se. But one in particular gave me an idea… and all it began with was orange and honey.

Now, I usually try to avoid adding sweeteners (even great natural ones like raw honey) where possible, but this marinade/dressing was going to need some, the way it was coming together in my head: orange rind can be quite bitter…

I started out by grating some rind from a navel orange (approximately one heaped teaspoon’s worth at a guess) then about the same amount of grated ginger. Cutting the top third from a navel orange, I hand squeezed the juice into a dish with the rind & ginger, then added a heaped teaspoon of raw honey, one teaspoon of tamari, and about a tablespoon of macadamia oil. After a good mix, I submerged my salmon steak in it. This began as the marinade but doubled as the salad dressing.

While the grill heated and the fish marinated, I scattered a mix of baby spinach, fresh basil & mint leaves on my plate, then grabbed some snow peas, celery, cucumber and cabbage out of the fridge. Popping the salmon in the grill, (skin side up) I set to finely chopping said veggies, then layered them over the greens.

I segmented the remainder of the orange as the salmon skin began to blacken, and after turning it over, decided to add a leftover avocado half, so sliced that and laid it on top of the salad pile. After placing the finished salmon steak on top, I scattered the orange segments and some roughly chopped up shallot greens, before dousing the whole thing with the remaining marinade. Then devouring.

It’s definitely the leaf combination and the dressing ingredients that made this dish so delicious. (I imagine a light sprinkling of crumbled feta would be fantastic too.) Whilst I haven’t provided a literal recipe here, I’d urge you to give it a go (in case you hadn’t noticed, the ingredients are all in bold typeface to give you a helping hand) because these flavours ….just amazing!

Mushroom, Leek & Spinach Stew

With below average winter temperatures here on the Gold Coast at the moment I’m craving warm comfort food a bit more than usual… but tonight I was feeling pretty lazy.

I had my mind set on using up the button mushrooms and leek in my fridge so searched for some inspiration on Google. Nothing particularly hit the spot, so I ended up combining ideas from three different recipes: a vegetarian mushroom stroganoff, a leek & mushroom pasta dish, and an actual leek & mushroom stew…food fervour

It’s not like me to limit the veggie content to just three in most of my meals, but I was tired, and running behind, and just too plain lazy to go the extra mile. Maybe it had to do with the fact that I’d made a batch of gluten free cacao chip biscuits earlier in the afternoon and eaten a few too many of them?

Contrary to its deceptive title, this dish is not vegetarian: I deliberately opted for beef stock to pump up the stew’s flavour. Chicken stock would enrich the mushrooms as well, but Veggos, I am certain that veggie stock would still taste terrific, should you wish to try it (…and please let me know how you go if you do!)

For a solid single serve, you will need 2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 finely chopped clove of garlic, 1 leek thinly sliced, salt & black pepper to season, approximately 200gm sliced mushrooms, 200mls beef (or veggie) stock, 1 teaspoon thyme, ½ teaspoon sage, 40gm cream cheese, 100gms baby spinach.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a frypan over a medium heat and cook the garlic and leek for 3-4 minutes (until the leek has softened) stirring occasionally. Season with salt & pepper, then add the remaining oil and the sliced mushrooms, cooking for another 3-4 minutes, again stirring occasionally. Add the thyme, sage & stock, bringing to a boil, then reduce to simmer for about 10 minutes. Mix the cream cheese through then add the spinach, stirring until it has just wilted.

Serve immediately and enjoy immensely! If you’re super hungry, I can imagine a chunk of bread would compliment this perfectly and help you mop up every last drop from your dish.

Asparagus & Sprouted Lentils with Avocado Sauerkraut Mash

The key to healthy eating is experimentation. Really, it’s not that hard, with the bottomless supply of information available at your fingertips on the net. I reckon I search for recipes (food ideas) pretty much every day of the week.

Today’s lunch was no exception. I checked out what I had in the fridge – paying particular attention to the veggies that needed to be used up first – and dived right into Google (the best thing since sliced bread….if you want to call that the best thing…)

Asparagus and sprouted lentils were first up. I found an appealing recipe (5th from the top of the first results page). But my (OCD!?) desire for nutrient density meant I had to search further. So I entered avocado & sauerkraut (just getting into sauerkraut for the first time in my life, so am kind of at a loss as to what to do with it) and found this interesting little recipe…

Envisaging how the two separate dishes may just compliment each other, I set to work, and produced this:food fervour

So, what’s in it? And in particular, what the hell is that stuff on top? It kinda looks like refried-beans-but-not? It’s actually avocado & sauerkraut.

I found the Sprouted Lentils with Asparagus recipe here, on the blog ‘My Own Private Kitchen’ and I altered very little: apart from the amounts (I’m ONE person) I omitted the basil, lemon juice, salt & pepper and I cooked in coconut oil instead. Oh yeah… and a lazy thing: I caramelised the onions in my Thermomix, per a recipe in Jo Whitton’s Quirky Cooking cookbook (making extra for later use, coz I LOVE caramelised onions).

The Avocado Sauerkraut Mash – on the website purelytwins.com – intrigued me. It’s so simple …but I found it needed something extra, and that extra was a dash of apple cider vinegar (lemon or lime juice might also do) for more, slightly sweeter, acidity. (I might’ve needed the added ‘oomph’ because my sauerkraut is homemade so could taste completely different – milder – than the stuff the twins use/d.)

To describe the processes super-briefly (for those who can’t be bothered visiting the links) here’s how it all came together:

Firstly I set the Thermomix to work on caramelising the onions for me (this takes about 20 minutes, the same amount of time as doing it yourself in a frypan) so I had time to prep my capsicum & asparagus. Frying them in coconut oil, over a medium heat for about 5 minutes, occasionally stirring, gave me time to make the ago mash simultaneously: halving an avocado, mashing & mixing it with 2 heaped tablespoons of sauerkraut. I pulled the veggies off the heat (leaving them in the frypan to ‘rest’) then mixed the (dash of) apple cider vinegar through the mash mixture and laid the bed of baby spinach on my plate. I added ½ cup of sprouted lentils straight into the frypan with the cooked capsicum & asparagus and stirred them through to warm. When the onions were done, I added about ¼ cup of them to the frypan, again mixing up the contents before placing them on top of the baby spinach. I scraped out every last bit of the avo sauerkraut mash from the mixing bowl and sat it on top of the lot.

It creates a visual feast, but you have to mix it all through when it’s time to consume: the sweetness of the onions and the capsicum counters & compliments the tang of the mash and there’s definitely one helluva lot of texture in the meal. You could also add a drizzle of olive oil and/or lemon juice if you prefer more moistness.

A Probiotic Toastie?

Since fermenting is now the latest thing in nutrition (to support and/or feed our gut bacteria which play possibly the mightiest role in our overall health) I have tried my hand at making sauerkraut, so that I have at least one natural, clean, ready-to-eat probiotic in my fridge…besides yoghurt, of course. Sauerkraut seemed like the easiest place for a Fermentation Beginner to start. “Probiotics 101”?

My first batch kind of failed, but my second attempt was a success. The question then became what to do with it. How do you eat it? I mean, how is it incorporated it into meals? After just eating it by the spoonful from the jar for awhile (hey, I don’t have to share with anyone so it’s ok!) I discovered it paired well with avocado: its salty tang, moisture and crunchiness compliments avo’s smooth, bland texture. I later realised that I could make a very quick, very simple tasty meal with some nutritional diversity, by adding in some ‘ever-ready-to-eat’ sprouted lentils I have stored in the fridge (no dressing required, thanks to the sauerkraut).food fervour

But today, I wanted something different; something a little more complex and filling. So I went hunting on the net, and came across a few recipes for ‘Reubens’: American-style sandwiches which usually include some kind of cured meat, like pastrami or corned beef. But then I found this vegetarian one: Vegetarian Reubens with Russian Dressing and it looked like something worth adapting.

Since I like to save time & effort (read: lazy!) I went without the dressing, adding avocado instead. It’s a surprisingly quick, warm nutrient-dense meal.

I quickly sautéed the mushrooms with chopped shallots, in coconut oil, pepper & salt, then added the baby spinach, stir-frying until it wilted. Removing that from the pan, I added some more coconut oil and lay my two pieces of gluten free bread, with the avocado already mashed on top, down to “fry-toast”.

A couple of minutes later the grill was warm enough, so I transferred my bread & avocado to the grill, then heaped the mushroom-spinach mix on top of one slice and my sauerkraut over the other, before laying slices of beautiful Nimbin Natural Tasty cheese over the top of both stacks. In less than a minute in my fast, hot grill, the cheese had melted beautifully so all I had left to do was press the two toasties together and transfer to a plate before devouring.food fervour

Now there’s a meal and a half, packed with nutrients, protein, fibre, good fats and of course ….wicked, gut-loving pro-biotics. 😉