Crustless Pumpkin Pie

Okay so Pumpkin Pie isn’t really a ‘Thing’ in Australia. But when you’ve bought a butternut at the farmers markets that’s the size of a human baby, finding ways to use it all becomes a challenge. Especially when you discover that the one kilogram you require for a hefty batch of Thai red curry pumpkin soup leaves you still with two thirds of said vegetable to demolish!

Food Fervour

yep, that’s my big butternut!

A friend once told me that pumpkin should only ever be roasted because “it brings out the flavour”. I discovered he’s dead right: the natural sugars caramelise and boost the veggie’s flavour incredibly. So I always roast it now, and often in quantities over and above anything I happen to be making at the time. That is to say, I roast extra so I’m prepared.

So, with a decent quantity of ready-roasted pumpkin chillin’ in the fridge, I ruminated upon its sweetness and wondered, “Could I successfully make a no added sugar dessert with it?” I considered how sweet the frittatas I made with it were. Could I make a kind of pumpkin ‘dessert’ frittata? That’s when I really began thinking about pumpkin pie… but I certainly didn’t want to have to make pastry for a pie crust. (Hell no! That’s way too much work!) Surely a blend of eggs, cream, some spices & that sweet roasted pumpkin could work?

A Google search for ‘crustless pumpkin pie recipes’ revealed (apart from all of the results being American websites) that their ingredients were pretty much as simple as I’d envisioned. Most of them however use (ugh!) evaporated milk, egg ‘replacer’ or ‘substitute’ and of course, added sugar. God Bless America!

Except for the cooking times (roasting the pumpkin & the final bake) this recipe is ridiculously simple and very time efficient. If you pre-cook the pumpkin as I did, you’ll save even more time. (Really, roasting excess vege is a great, healthy habit to get into; it helps you to stay ‘prepared’. You can save time and expand your meals options for salads, frittatas, risottos …but they also make a better choice of snack if you’re a regular ‘fridge visitor’ like me!)

Now, if you haven’t pre-roasted your pumpkin, the basic method is to preheat your oven to 200ºC, line a tray with baking paper then arrange skinned and roughly cut chunks of lightly oiled pumpkin (EVOO is fine even though you’ll be making a dessert… you won’t even notice the flavour after the roasting) and bake them for 20-30 minutes (depending upon the speed of your oven). Don’t burn them! If a skewer slides in easily & the centre feels soft, you’re done. It’s probably a good idea to let it cool a bit before moving onto the pie recipe.Food Fervour

Here’s what I used for my pie:

430gms of roast pumpkin, 2 eggs, 200gm pure cream, the following spices: 1 teaspoon vanilla paste, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground ginger, ½ teaspoon nutmeg, ¼ teaspoon ground cloves & a pinch of salt, plus 50gm pecans (optional). What’s also optional is to keep some maple syrup handy to add later if you don’t think the batter is sweet enough for you. (But don’t go overboard; the more you add, the runnier the mix will be…)

Preheat the oven to 180ºC and grease & line a baking dish/casserole dish or round cake tin with baking paper, then simply throw all of the ingredients into a food processor or high-powered blender and mix well. (Thermies: a couple of 10-20 second rounds on Speed 5-6, with some scrape-downs, should suffice.) Pour the ‘batter’ into your prepared receptacle and sprinkle with extra cinnamon, then cook for 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Food FervourNB: Because I used a smaller (16x16cm) dish, my pie was thicker so I let it cook for almost an hour. Bear in mind that a thinner pie = potentially less cooking time.

Allow to cool a little before trying to remove from the dish. Slice and serve up with more cream …or just enjoy it undressed. 😛

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The Quickest, Easiest Nutrient-Dense Meal

Don’t you just love those ads that appear on almost every website, enticing you click, to find out what “5 foods you should never eat”? It’s laughable. Oh I have gone there, never you mind. Pretty much every time you are subjected to some long-winded video that culminates in no answer but a sales pitch.

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A simple salad with avocado & seeds

I’m going to give you an answer for free.

The quickest, easiest, healthiest meal you can make is:

Salad.
Just salad.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: I’m lazy. On the whole, I hate complex recipes and heaps of washing up …and I’m also impulsive: if I’m hungry, I want it NOW.
But I’m passionate about eating well, as ‘cleanly’ (where ‘clean’ means as unprocessed and free of toxins, read: organic) as possible. And since veggies are the most nutrient -dense and -varied, my aim is to get as many in each day as possible …many more than the government’s “5 per day” guideline.

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Rushing to work? This healthy lunchbox takes no time at all

Salads make this possible when you are limited for time.  The only equipment you need to start with is:

One chopping board, a knife & your choice of serving vessel.

(I prefer bowls, so I can toss my salad more easily without scattering bits everywhere. Oh and they hold ‘fluid’ better, should I go overboard on the dressing) That’s it. Makes for a very quick and easy clean up.

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My favourite salad dish is a big square bowl

Then it’s just a matter of pulling all your foodstuffs out of the fridge. A little bit of organisation will take you a long way here: to put it simply, I try to keep everything together so I don’t have to make multiple trips. (Again, time-saving. Yes okay, as well as lazy…) The veggie crisper/drawer/bin (whatever you like to call it) is good for that. Who knows… maybe it was even designed with this in mind? 😉
Since I buy a lot of produce, it usually won’t all fit in my crisper, so I use another large plastic container in which I store the overflow (I bought it YEARS ago and it still works a treat)…

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Next it’s chopping time. Literally, chop: roughly or finely, however you prefer. (just no fingers, please!) I’ll usually cut finely because I like more variety in one mouthful!

I tend to put green leafy stuff underneath (spinach/lettuce/rocket) unless it’s more of a garnish (basil/watercress/mint) then load in the rest and toss it all together. Seriously, MOST foods/flavours combine well. All you have to do if you’re the slightest bit uncertain, is envisage salads you may have eaten in the past, or standard salads everybody knows. For example, I’ve turned Waldorf salad – basically celery, apply & walnuts – into a nutritional giant by throwing in green leafy stuff, cucumber, mint, eshallots, snowpeas. If you are really stuck, just Google. (Or follow me on Instagram for inspiration!) Pick an ingredient you want to use, type it in with “salad recipes” behind it and Bob’s your uncle. You will find literally tonnes of recipes on the net, and you’ll also discover that many of them are quite similar. (This is one way to become familiar with food pairings: you’ll surprised how easily you’ll absorb the info you glean…)

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Here’s my ‘pimped up’ version of a basic Beetroot & Feta salad recipe I found on the ‘net…

 

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I’m so lazy that most of the time I don’t even blend the oil & vinegar, I just pour them directly onto the dish from the bottles.

‘Rabbit Food’ can be tedious, I’ll grant you, but it’s only due to a lack of imagination and experimentation. The dressing is often the key to salads’ flavour, and will definitely help those who (think they) detest veggies to consume them with more ease. The problem is, shop-bought (ready-made/processed) dressings house a lot of the nasties (including excessive amounts of sugar) we need to avoid. If you haven’t the time or inclination to Google dressing recipes (by the way, here’s 50 of them, I found just now on the ‘Food Network’ site…) the easiest thing to do is throw either fresh citrus juice or your choice of vinegar with some extra virgin olive oil into a small jar, screw on the cap, then shake vigorously. Instant ‘clean’ dressing. Voila!

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‘Leftover’ Lamb Salad

Another consideration for the ‘veggie-haters’ is protein. Since our meals should include some of this macronutrient anyway (lazy me prefers nuts, seeds, boiled eggs & cheeses) the addition of your favourite meat will make salads even more palatable. Obviously for time-saving purposes, you’d look at using leftovers from a previous meal… unless you also had time to cook something. In which case, you wouldn’t be needing to read this post in the first place…?

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‘Sweetlip’ fish on a bed of salad

So, there’s really no excuse, as far as I can see. Eating healthily really doesn’t take much more time than it would to hop in your car and head to McDonald’s. But it’s a whole world more beneficial to your Insides. Which – quite bluntly – is the only thing that matters, because it’s where pretty much all Disease originates.

So, grab a knife and get healthy… Chop-chop!

 

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.

Quick Chicken Mushroom Stew

I LOVE a quick meal. Usually I’ll spend more time on Google looking for a recipe (to adapt!) than I’ll end up spending on the actual cooking process.

Last night I had two boneless chicken thighs to thawed and knowing my button mushies were only days away from turning funky, I searched “chicken mushroom recipes” and found a great, easy recipe on BBC Good Food (here’s the link to the original recipe).Food Fervour

Because I didn’t have all the required ingredients, and because I prefer a higher vegetable content in my meals anyway, I made some changes. (What’s new?!) I used the following:

2 (large) boneless diced chicken thighs, about 1 heaped tablespoon of cornflour, 1-2 tablespoons coconut oil, about 1 heaped tablespoon diced bacon, 1-1½ cups roughly chopped button mushrooms, 250mls chicken stock, approximately 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar, 1 large chopped shallot, 1-1½ cups broccoli florets, 1 large thickly chopped zucchini.

While half of the coconut oil heats up in the frypan (over medium heat) coat the chicken in the cornflour. (You can do this one of two ways: the sustainable but messy method is to put them together in a bowl and use your hands to coat the chicken, or you could pop the meat & flour in a plastic bag, seal it, then jiggle the contents around until the job is done. I only chose the latter this time around because I had a plastic (food) bag I was about to dispose of.) Chuck the contents in the frypan and cook until the chicken is sealed and browned. Remove from the pan.

Add the rest of the coconut oil, the bacon and the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms soften. Pour in the stock and vinegar, scraping any cornflour from the frypan base and mix it through the liquid (the meagre amount of cornflour used in this recipe means the stew won’t be ‘thick’ in texture). Bring the chicken back to the mix and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the shallot, broccoli & zucchini and cook until the broccoli has turned a brilliant green (brighter than it was when raw) – no more than 5 minutes or you risk overcooking the greens. And that’s just no good!

Serve immediately, seasoning if you wish. This will feed two not-so-hungry people but I imagine it would satisfy the ravenous if served over rice. Because I felt like being ‘starchy-carb-free’ at the time, I managed to inhale the entire dish …by going back for seconds 😉 Umah!

 

Cacao Blueberry ‘Ice Cream’

food fervourIn case you haven’t gathered by now, I’m a bit of an ice cream fan. I used to be crazy for it and, while I can still ‘slide’ back into the habit of buying commercial stuff (whether it be a small tub from the supermarket, or a few scoops from a gelati shop) on the odd occasion, I’ve become pretty well disciplined to experiment at home when the desire arises.

It’s actually quite surprising how easy it can be. If you have nuts (& a range of spices) in the pantry, a heap of ‘stuff’ in the freezer and a very powerful blender (mine’s a Thermomix) you can have ice cream in minutes; ice cream will be way better for you than any mass-produced product out there and that should easily satisfy a ‘craving’.

I’ve come across a wide variety of recipes for ‘alternative’ ice creams with the help of Google, so if you want to experiment further do a little research on the net. The most astonishing recipes I came across were for vegan ice creams made entirely from nuts… which really did work! Fat is the key to ice cream however, having said that, some fruits (particularly banana and mango) when frozen thicken beautifully in the blending process.

Drawing on these ideas, along with some others I’ve gained through the Thermomix community, I created this no-added-sugar “ice cream” with a handful of all-natural – mostly frozen – foodstuffs. I have an almost permanent store of frozen fruit and yoghurt cubes in my freezer, which means I’m well prepared to make ice cream at the drop of a hat. Now, if you don’t like yoghurt you can try freezing cubes of coconut milk (vegan option) or perhaps even ordinary cow’s milk (I’ve never tried this), but creams (dairy especially) tend to split when frozen so they’ll affect the texture of your finished product.

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ready-to-freeze yoghurt

Forewarning: don’t expect the smoothest ice cream texture (because of the extra, natural, ‘great-for-your-gut’ fibre in it) and it definitely isn’t as sweet as your commercial counterparts…

Armed with 20gm hazelnuts, 4 dates, 1 frozen banana (cut into chunks), ½ cup frozen blueberries, 100gm frozen yoghurt cubes (approx 8) 1 heaped tablespoon of cacao powder and 1 teaspoon vanilla paste (optional) I created a taste sensation that could have served 2 people… but I ate the whole lot!

Place the hazelnuts and dates (try more than 4 if you are a real sweet tooth) in a high powered blender and blast until the nuts become ‘meal’ (Thermies: 10 seconds, speed 9-10)

Scrape down the sides of the jug/bowl then add the rest of the ingredients: banana, blueberries, yoghurt/milk cubes, cacao & (optional) vanilla. Blend until smooth. This may take 2-3 rounds: repeat blending, stopping, scraping down and mixing a little by hand. (Thermies: I started around Speed 5 and worked my way up to Speed 9 over a 30 second period, stopped, scraped down & mixed then hit it again at Speed 9 for another 30 seconds)

It should be solid enough to dish out in balls that look like huge scoops of ice cream. I topped mine with cacao nibs (coz I love chocolate chip ice cream) and devoured it in a matter of minutes.

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Believe it or not, this is a ‘kale’ (& mango) ice cream, I made from a green smoothie base. 10/10 for imagination?

Let me know how you go, and please feel free to share your variations or own personal experiments 🙂

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.