Super Simple Berry Crumble

I can’t deny my sweet tooth. So I try to work with it, by creating as much as possible without adding processed sweeteners. And by that, I mean even the least processed sweeteners that would be considered ‘better choices’ …like pure maple syrup and raw honey, for example.

food fervourSince it’s berry season here again (and damn, if berries aren’t some of the best fruits you can eat, not just for their lower natural sugar content but also for their prolific nutrient value) but also still technically Winter, I have been playing around with Crumble recipes for a healthier, warm dessert option (but believe me, they are certainly highly edible straight from the fridge and cold the day after) and I’ve arrived at the ideal result …for me.

You see, it definitely won’t be as sweet as many of you would expect or desire …so you may want to add sweetener yourself. If so, I’d leave the berries/berry element alone and add something (rapadura or maple syrup) to the crumble mix, if you have to. The other alternative is to serve the dish up with my Macadamia Banana Creme coz it’s naturally sweeeeet!food fervour

You will need a food processor, powerful blender or …a Thermomix (!) and the following ingredients: 150gm blueberries, 100gm roughly chopped strawberries, 1 teaspoon vanilla essence, 30gm almonds, 60gm oats, 10gm shredded coconut, 50gm coconut/macadamia oil, 1 teaspoon vanilla paste

Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease the base of a small casserole dish (I used a 16x16cm square container) with a little coconut/macadamia oil.

Add 50gm blueberries, 30gm strawberries and vanilla essence to your blending appliance and pulverise these into a sauce. (Thermomixers blend for 10 seconds at Speed 5-6.) Place the remainder of the berries into the casserole dish and thoroughly mix the fresh berry sauce through.

Without rinsing out your processing appliance, throw in the almonds, oats, coconut, coconut oil and vanilla paste (as well as any additional sweetener you may wish to add) and blend briefly: 3 or 4 pulses in a blender or food processor or the Turbo function in a Thermomix. The oil and vanilla paste moisture may make the crumble sticky, but it should be pretty easy to break it apart to spread it evenly over the berry mix.food fervour

Pop it in the oven for 30 minutes, decide what you want to add to it – cream, custard (see left), ice-cream, Macadamia Banana Creme –  and be ready to devour it as soon as it’s done. 😛

 

Instant Lychee Ice Cream

Ice cream is one of my weaknesses. But today I made some here at home, from scratch, and in less than 5 minutes …with two ingredients. Yes, just two, real, whole-food ingredients. No added sugar whatsoever.Food Fervour

All you have to have prepared for instant ice cream is some frozen fruit. I’ve always got fruit in the freezer; blueberries and bananas are staples but over summer I added mango flesh & lychee pulp to my stores and it was the lychee pulp I used to make my ice cream today. It’s sweet but hasn’t an overpowering flavour so it makes for the perfect ice cream to pair with other foods if you wish.

Now, I have to admit, I’ve done this plenty of times before, but with full-fat natural yoghurt. The plethora of gut friendly bacteria in yoghurt does make it a much healthier option but today I just didn’t want that tang. I love frozen yoghurt but I love ice cream more!

In typical fashion, I just threw every thing together in my Magic Bullet without measuring so I’m really guessing with quantities here… but I reckon I used about 1/3 cup of frozen lychee pulp & about 2 (hefty) tablespoons of Maleny Dairies pure cream. Maleny Dairies’ cream is the thickest natural cream I have ever come across so I’m going to add a disclaimer here and say that if you use ordinary, mass-produced pouring cream this recipe won’t work. If you buy your cream from the supermarket, I’m guessing you’ll be better off with ‘double’ or ‘thickened’ cream for this recipe. Similarly, if you’re thinking of trying this with coconut cream (vegans) it will have to be a really thick variety like Ayam brand …not the cheaper supermarket ones.

Simply throw them into your blender together, blend and scrape a couple of times and Bob’s your uncle! I served mine up in a dish with halved strawberries (see pic). You could pop it back in the freezer for awhile if you prefer it more solid… most home made ice cream is put through a number of alternating blend-and-freezes before serving. I just couldn’t wait that long! 😉

Banoffie Berries

There’s no question I’m a Sweet Tooth. For some reason, I usually want some dessert after dinner …even if I’m full. But it’s always a healthy option; usually fruit & nuts with yoghurt.

Tonight however, I had some leftover cream in the fridge. And an overripe banana in my fruit bowl. Now, although I’ve never eaten much of it, I love Banoffi Pie. Cream + banana = Banoffi  😛

This is basically a pimped up version of Strawberries & Cream: that was the original plan until I spotted the banana and the cogs began turning. The best thing about this is that the natural sugars in the overripe banana mean no added sugar is necessary in the cream. This dessert is super quick, easy and created from just four whole, natural ingredients.

Food FervourNB: I used a specific brand of cream that is naturally very thick (Maleny Dairies) so I can’t vouch for how well this may work for ordinary supermarket brand creams.

All you need for a single serve is: approximately 2 tablespoons of cream, 1 small overripe banana, fresh strawberries and a handful of fresh blueberries.

Finely chop the banana then simply mix vigorously with the cream, using a fork. (It might seem like a bit of work but using a blender could result in banana butter if you’re not careful. Besides, who wants to add a blender to the washing up?) Being overripe, the banana should break up pretty easily.

Simply chop your strawberries, top with the ‘Banoffi’ mix, toss over the blueberries and devour. Deeeelicious!

 

Asparagus & Eggplant Salad with Poached Egg

Time to use up some asparagus! Since it pairs well – and often – with poached egg, I was up for totally up for that today, but I wanted more variety. More veg. With one mini eggplant left in the fridge, I searched for “asparagus eggplant recipes” and found this one pretty quickly… it was quick and easy to boot.

Food Fervour

Here’s what I used:

1 small eggplant, 8 asparagus spears, 3 cherry tomatoes, 1 egg, apple cider vinegar, a handful of rocket, finely grated parmesan cheese, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

And here’s what you do:

Quarter the eggplant then slice approximately 5mm thick pieces. Rub the pieces with salt and let rest. Meanwhile chop and discard the bottom 3cm of the asparagus spears then slice into pieces approx 3cm long. Turn the oven grill on to high.

Set a small saucepan on the stove and fill with about 5-6cm water on high heat. Cover and while it comes to the boil, rinse the salt off the eggplant and pat dry with paper towel. Then coat it generously in oil (EVOO) and spread the pieces out under the grill.

Throw the asparagus in the boiling water (to blanch), removing with a slotted spoon after a couple of minutes. Don’t tip out the water, we’re going to recycle it! Set the asparagus aside and check the eggplant; it should be ready to turn over.

Return the saucepan with the water to the stove, adding a dash of apple cider vinegar. Break the egg into a small cup or bowl then, as the vinegar water returns to the boil, grab a spoon and begin stirring the water in one direction quickly to create a ‘whirlpool’. Tip the egg right into the eye of the whirlpool then remove the saucepan from the heat source immediately and cover with the lid. The egg will keep on cookin’ in this hot environment (about 3 minutes for the perfect soft centre) as you continue your prep…

Lay a bed of rocket on your plate, placing the asparagus over the top. Remove the eggplant from the grill and scatter on the plate, then add the quartered cherry tomatoes.

Using the slotted spoon again, gently remove the egg from the saucepan, resting briefly on some paper towel to drain excess fluid, then place on top of the salad. Shower the lot with the grated parmesan, drizzling some EVOO and seasoning with salt and pepper before chowing down. You could add a little vinegar or lemon juice as well if you prefer.

Food FervourIt’s a perfect ‘light meal’ ….but I was a little hungrier than I thought so I ended up cutting a few extra pieces of parmesan to nibble on while I cleaned up. 😛

 

Zoodles with Chickpeas & Pesto

It was time to harvest my crazy flat leaf parsley plant today. Because parsley is rarely the star in any recipe, I kinda knew I’d be making a pesto. What else can you make with an over-abundance of any green herb? I chose a Parsley & Walnut recipe I found on Taste.com.au (link to that recipe here ) …but halved the ingredients because (1) I’m single and don’t eat much and (2) I didn’t really have enough parmesan cheese left to make the full batch…

Now even before I’d finished creating it I knew how I’d be enjoying the first serving: zoodles. Zucchini noodles, for those not in the know. Because I’m not a huge fan of Italian food – pasta and the like – I’m a bit clueless about the uses of pesto: besides as a dip, all that comes to mind is its presence in pasta dishes (total cliche). So, there it was: raw zucchini spiralled into spaghetti-like strands, to be crowned with my parsley pesto… BUT… what in between? I can’t just do ‘pasta’ & pesto: I mean, where’s the nutrient density in that? ‘Myright?Food Fervour

This is how my (single serve) meal came together:

I popped a frypan on the stove, splashing in a little EVOO and setting it to a low heat. Then I cut about a quarter of a red capsicum slicing it thinly lengthwise. I added it to the frypan.

Next I ‘zoodled’ (spiralled) half of a medium sized zucchini, and arranged the ‘pasta’ bed on my plate. I added approximately ¼ cup of (cooked) chickpeas to the frypan, with the now softening capsicum and gave it a little stir. Then I retrieved some feta & my freshly made pesto from the fridge, and my nutritional yeast from the pantry. There really wasn’t much left to do…

With the chickpeas warmed and the capsicum soft, it was time to plate. (Too easy, right?) I topped the zoodles with the capsicum first, creating a kind of ‘nest’ with them, then I tipped the chickpeas into the centre. Plopping a good dollop of the pesto on top of them, I cut a little piece (maybe 20gms?) of feta, crumbled it over the lot and finished with a sprinkle of (about 1 teaspoon of) nutritional yeast.

It’s a nice light veggie meal, like a ‘warm salad’ in a respect. I found the sweetness of the capsicum tempered any bitterness of the walnut & parsley pesto, and then there was delicious saltiness of the feta and nutritional yeast. If you want to give it a go (NB vegans simply omit the feta) I’d love to know what you think. 🙂

Berry Protein Shake

What do you do when you have a heaps of berries you’d prefer to use up before you head to the farmer’s markets the next morning?

And what if you’re needing a protein injection because you’ve just performed a resistance (weight-training) session?

And you’ve just created a new batch of yoghurt from some Maleny Dairies milk, so your Thermomix is already ‘soiled’?

Well. Here’ what I did:

Food FervourI threw 20gms almonds in and milled them (Speed 10) for about 4 seconds, then added 150gm of the amazing full cream Maleny milk, about 40gms of frozen custard apple flesh (this is of course optional but I highly recommend it to thicken and sweeten the shake) and an unknown quantity (…but it was lots…) of strawberries and/or blueberries, firing it up to Speed 10 for 40 seconds. I certainly didn’t feel hungry after that.

NB: If this doesn’t seem like enough protein to you, simply mill a greater quantity of almonds: their protein content ratio is higher than that of the cow’s milk (but so is the fat content if you’re concerned about that). And if you’re not a dairy consumer, this is good news for you: you ain’t missin out. 😉

Simple Celery Soup

I can’t stand waste… in all facets of life, but particularly food. I can usually find ways to use up leaves and stems (of broccoli and cauliflower for example) but the one plant I struggle with is celery.

You see, I’m definitely not the kind of person who buys the stalks pre-cut and packaged from shops: if it’s not the whole head, I won’t touch it. And FYI, it has to be organic because celery is one of those plants that too readily absorbs and holds toxic substances (like pesticides… here’s a link to the current (American) “Dirty Dozen”). Since the vast majority of recipes ask for only the stalks, more than half of a whole bunch of celery can go to waste.

Apart from veggie stock, there seem to be very, very few recipes on the net that help you to use up the whole plant (I’m trying to grow my own so that I may be able to harvest it directly as I need it in future) but I finally found a simple soup recipe that is now my Go-To. I’m not usually one for creating dishes with minimal veggies but because celery’s so good for you (super high fibre and water content – your liver loves it – and super low calories, for those who care) and this recipe is so easy, I figure it’s acceptable to chug down a lot of this (surprisingly tasty) soup. NB: it doesn’t actually include the leaves (they do tend to be bitter) but I’ll sometimes throw some in.Food Fervour

I’m providing directions for both manual cooks and Thermomixers, but manual cooks take note: celery fibre is tough to break down so you’ll have to blend more thoroughly at the end …please take great care with the hot liquid.

Food Fervour

300gm worth of celery offcuts.

All you’ll need is: 1 onion, 1-2 garlic cloves, 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) 300gm celery offcuts (see pic) and 500mls (or a little less if you prefer a thicker soup) of your preferred stock – chicken or vegetable (Thermomixers can use 1 tablespoon of stock paste & 500ml water if preferred)

Thermomix:

Quarter the onion and add it to the bowl with the garlic clove/s, blending for 5 seconds at Speed 5. Add the EVOO and cook for 3½minutes at Varoma temp on Speed 1.

Add the roughly chopped celery, further breaking them down for 5 seconds at Speed 5, then add your choice of stock. Set to cook for 17 minutes Varoma temp, Speed 1.

Finally, blend for 60 seconds at Speed 9-10 (increasing speed slowly, for caution) and serve immediately.

Manual:

Heat 1 tablespoon EVOO in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add 1 finely diced onion and finely chopped garlic clove and cook for 2-3 mins

Add roughly chopped celery* and stock and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce to simmer for 10-12 minutes.

Blend thoroughly (in batches if necessary)  and serve immediately.

*the finer you chop the celery, the easier the final blend should be 😉

 

Mushroom, Broccoli & Kale Quinoa

I love one pot recipes …they’re (usually) ridiculously easy and best of all, there’s minimal cleaning up! Being pushed for time to cook my evening meal this afternoon, there was an even better reason to take this ‘short cut’.

Since my kale plant was in need of harvesting I searched for kale recipes, with quinoa. I was pretty lucky to come across a vegan recipe that included broccoli as well, first go. But because the recipe asked for cauliflower – which I didn’t have – I was going to have to make some changes. What a surprise!

While it easily satisfied me for a main meal, I reckon it would work well as a side dish, if you’re looking for something substantial (or ‘hearty’).Food Fervour

You’ll need: 1 cup quinoa (pre-soaked or well rinsed) 1 finely chopped onion, 1 finely chopped garlic clove, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), 1 tablespoon curry powder/paste (I used a massaman paste) 130gms (approx 6 large) sliced mushrooms, 2 cups (500mls) vegetable stock, 200gm broccoli florets, 40gm finely chopped/shredded kale

Warm the EVOO in a large saucepan, over a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes. Mix in the curry powder or paste next and cook for another minute, until fragrant. Finally add the mushrooms and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Pop the quinoa into the mix and stir well to coat, then add the stock. Bring it to a boil then drop the heat immediately back to a medium temperature. Let it simmer away (occasionally stirring to prevent anything sticking to the base of the pan) for 13-15 minutes.

Mix in the broccoli and kale, then cover and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. Remove the cover to steam off any excess liquid if necessary (stirring occasionally) otherwise, serve it right up immediately and enjoy!Food Fervour

I have to admit, I didn’t find the curry flavour very strong at all so I had no qualms about sprinkling some nutritional yeast over the top… To. Die. For!

 

 

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. 😉

Lychee, Lime & Mint Water

I’ve noticed that Fruit Water is starting to trend a little more now… and I mean fruit water beyond just lemon or lime or mint floating around in your glass: large jugs or urns with anything from cucumber to peach or mango flesh lolling around the bottom. This is meant to impart a tinge of flavour to make water consumption more tolerable to those who just don’t like drinking it.

I have no problem drinking water at all, but lately I’ve begun saving the water used when I’ve steamed veggies (knowing that some of the nutrients lost from the vegetables in the cooking process end up in the water) …and it’s not really enjoyable to drink straight. The I Quit Sugar gang suggest saving and using it in your smoothies. That’s a fantastic idea, but… I don’t consume smoothies often enough to use up all the water within a few days. So I needed to conceptualise some way to use larger quantities of the water in a single serve.

It wasn’t a complex idea, combining the ‘whole-fruit-in-water’ concept with the ‘nutrient-dense-steamed-water-for-smoothies’ notion, but I didn’t know if it would work. I mean, would it actually taste nice? There was obviously only one way to find out…

Food FervourMy first attempt involved fresh blueberries. And it shocked the pants off me. (Not literally.) It was delicious. Unfortunately I didn’t note the quantities, but I do recall using a decent handful of blueberries and perhaps 1-1½ cups of cold (veggie) water. And it really was this simple:

Water + whole fruit → blended = natural cordial.

Naturally this may only work with certain kinds of fruit …especially when you are already using steamed vegetable flavoured water… fruits that are naturally sweet and easily blended. For example, oranges may be too tart and fibrous – unless you can be bothered to remove the membrane and seeds from each segment…

Lychees are a naturally sweet and juicy fruit and I happened to have a bunch of them in the fridge. But because they’re also subtle in flavour, I thought I’d better add something else, to ensure I’d disguise the water’s taste. Since lime (like lemon) is well known to help intensify flavours (of other foods, besides themselves!) and I happened to have half a lime in the fridge, I opted for that and, in case that wasn’t enough, I added mint as well: another strong flavour and perfect compliment to both lychees and lime (…and very Asian…)Food Fervour

So for my single serve, this is what I used: 300mls water, the flesh of 6 lychees, a hand-squeeze of fresh lime, 10 or so mint leaves, 6-8 ice cubes.

Blend simply for as long as you wish, and serve immediately.

It’s a light, very refreshing bevvy, perfect for hot days like those we’ve been experiencing lately on the Gold Coast (…gotta love summer!) but just remember that unlike pure water, this beverage contains calories, so despite it being a far better option than juice, cordial or soft drink, it wouldn’t be such a great idea to chug down gallons of it on a daily basis either. Treat it as… a treat! Enjoy …and let me know what other fruit works if you feel adventurous!