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. 🙂

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Cacao Beetroot Cake

As far as I’m concerned, the more veggies you can get in, the better. And this cake, well, unless you’re extremely picky, you wouldn’t know there’s a vegetable in it. I haven’t made it for ages and, true to form, I’ve altered the original recipe yet again.

I had leftover rice and almond milk pulp to use up, and for once I decided to go with spelt flour instead of the usual (heavier, gluten free) buckwheat. This recipe is almost fool-proof so if you wanted to use a plain gluten-free flour go for it; I can pretty much guarantee it will still turn out.

The biggest difference for me this time however was using raw beetroot. The recipes usually call for ‘cooked mashed beetroot’ but you see, apart from now owning a Thermomix that will virtually pulverise the tough root veggie, I concluded that it would cook during its 40-50 minute sojourn in the 180ºC oven environment. It seems to have worked.Food Fervour

So for this amazingly moist healthy ‘choccy’ cake, I used: 1 medium-large beetroot, 1 teaspoon vanilla essence, ¾ cup coconut sugar, ¾ cup coconut oil, 2 eggs, 1¼ cups spelt flour (actually I used ½ cup almond & rice milk pulp + ¾ cup spelt, and it worked) 1 teaspoon baking powder (bicarb soda), ½ cup (or a fraction more!) cacao powder, ½ teaspoon sea salt and ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg.

beetrootFirst you’ll need to grate your beetroot (I hope you’re not wearing white?!) unless you have a Thermomix or other very high powered blender or food processing appliance (because I buy organic beets I didn’t peel it). Thermie users, I chose speed 5-6 for about 15 seconds, stopped to scrape down the bowl & repeated once more.

For the manual cooks, you’ll need another bowl to thoroughly blend the moist ingredients (vanilla, sugar, oil and eggs) then add the beetroot to the mix (or vice versa). Thermomixers can add the ingredients directly to the bowl with the beetroot in it and blend for 20 secs at speed 5-6. Scrape down afterwards.

Now, I know most chefs & cooks prefer the dry goods to be pre-mixed but I usually never do this because I’m lazy: I hate creating more washing up (with extra bowls). I prefer to substitute this action with prolonged ‘elbow-grease’… in other words, add all the ingredients individually then mix the crap out of that cake batter until it can’t possibly be anything but well-blended. With a wooden spoon this equates to a fair bit of energy consumption and perhaps some lactic acid build-up in the muscles of your stirring arm. With electric beaters (does anyone even own them anymore?) food processors or Thermomixes it’s a piece of cake (excuse the pun). Chuck in all the remaining ingredients (flour, bicarb, cacao powder, salt & nutmeg) then mix, mix, mix! (Thermies, a couple of 20 second hits around speed 5-6, with some scrape downs, should do fine).

Don’t panic if your batter seems too liquescent (runny)… that’s exactly how mine was. Believe me, it solidifies as it bakes but the result is ridiculously moist! Pour into a greased, lined loaf tin and bake in a moderate oven (180ºC) as previously mentioned, for 40-50 minutes. A knife or skewer inserted should come out cleanly when it’s done. Let it cool for about 5-10 minutes before turning it out of the tin… because its so moist you’ll risk it falling apart while hot.Food Fervour

Now this could be enjoyed on its own because it is so moist but I pimped mine up with some of my homemade chocolate ganache (find that recipe here) and shredded coconut.

Yarrrrrm!

 

3 Ingredient ‘Chocolate Ganache’

Ok so how I came across this one was …kind of like the movie ‘Sliding Doors’. And I realise that won’t mean anything to those who haven’t seen it. But basically, it was by accident, and yet also a ridiculously close ‘shave’. Let me explain:

When I began making ‘raw cookies’ about a decade ago (before they became the energy/protein balls or raw truffles we all know today) I soaked dates. Yep, just that. I soaked dates, as the basis for these healthy raw food treats. You would blend them up (but because I never had a blender, I just chopped them over and over again until they resembled something a food processor or blender might spit out) then mix milled or chopped nuts, seeds and whatever else into them before the messy part of the job: the hand-rolling and coating in   desiccated coconut or again, nut meal.Food Fervour

It was when I came across a recipe that included cocoa (yes, before cacao powder went ‘mainstream’) that I realised soaked dates mixed with cocoa could make a kind of (weird) chocolate substitute. But this is where the train doors slid shut…. and I forgot about it.

…Until last year sometime, when, after making another slightly dry (I admit!) gluten free cake that I knew would benefit from some kind of moist topping (but what to make without heaps of processed sugar?) the train doors automatically opened and I soaked some dates. It worked perfectly – for ME: I realise chefs and food critics would turn up their noses, but I’m not about perfection (at the cost of health).. I’m about clean, unprocessed Imitation & Adaptation!

This is extremely easy but you’ll need to allow more time: the longer the dates soak, the better. In fact, if the dates are well soaked and chopped, you don’t even need a blender for this recipe; some old fashioned elbow grease (mixing by hand) will work. Oh and make sure there are no seeds in them!

One cup of dates (I use Iranian, I imagine Medjool would work even better, and may not need to soak for long – if at all. Please let me know how this goes if you try this!) will easily thickly coat a loaf-sized cake, with some to spare.

Food FervourDrain the water from the dates (I actually keep this to use as a liquid sweetener in other creations: waste not, want not!) and throw them in a powerful blender with 2 heaped tablespoons of cacao powder (add more for a stronger dark chocolate flavour) and 2 tablespoons liquefied coconut oil. You will need to blend & scrape numerous times (Thermomixers, I performed about 4 rounds of 15 seconds, increasing from speed 5 to 9) but the result is worth it: a rich, thick, chocolatey ‘ganache’ that you can top cakes with, fill biccies with, or even eat on toast like Nutella (if you’re desperate enough)! If you really want to you could press the ganache through a strainer to ensure a smoother product, but for my money, what’s the point in removing all that extra natural fibre?

Food Fervour

‘Ganache’ used as a biscuit filling

There’s heaps of room to experiment too: powdered spices or essences could alter the result… Vanilla or peppermint essence? Cinnamon? Even a touch of chilli powder? I think I might try to explore a salted caramel version so… stay tuned for that!

Raw Carrot Cake with Lime Cashew Icing

I’ve had this recipe earmarked to try for quite some time now… but it was only this week I found the (time &) motivation. Included in a handout from a raw food demonstration I attended years ago, I’d filed it away in a cooking folder, to sit idly waiting for me to visit it.

food fervourWell, this week, it was Time. And I was impressed with the result. As usual, I made a few alterations to the original recipe (including halving all the amounts) and I believe there is yet more room for improvement!

Apart from a powerful blender (I used my Thermomix and later, to fine tune the icing, the Magic Bullet) you will need:

1 cup brazil nuts, 5 medium carrots, ¼ cup dates, ¼ cup maple syrup (I actually used ‘date water’ which isn’t as sweet as the syrup so you may find you could reduce this amount) ½-1 teaspoon grated ginger, 1½ cups desiccated coconut, ¼ sultanas, 1½ tblspns psyllium husk

Mill the brazil nuts first (TM: 10secs, speed 9) and set aside, then grate the carrots (TM: 10-15secs, speed 5-6). Next, blend the dates, liquid sweetener & ginger (TM: up to 30secs, speed 7-9). Finally, add in the nut meal, carrots and remaining ingredients and mix well (TM: approx 1min, speed intermittent (knead) scraping down then mixing 30secs, reverse speed 4). Empty the mixture into into a greased (coconut oil) lined dish (the mixture perfectly filled a 15 x 20cm stoneware baking dish I have) pressing it in and smoothing it over. Refrigerate, or freeze if you prefer.

For the icing, mill ½ cup raw cashews (TM: 10 secs, speed 9) then add approximately 2-3 tablespoons of maple syrup (again, I used date water instead) the flesh & rind of half a lime and a dash of coconut oil. Blend well (TM: 30-60secs, up to speed 8. You will need to scrape down a few times. This is where I transferred the mixture to my Magic Bullet short cup for a smoother consistency). Simply spread over the top of the ‘cake’ and refrigerate (or freeze) until ready to devour!

 

 

Raw Passionfruit Avocado Cheesecake

I’ve been admiring (& occasionally enjoying) the variety of raw cheesecakes that are slowly becoming more readily available at cafes and eateries, but had not bothered trying to make one even though I’ve been told many times that it’s ‘piece of cake’ (excuse the pun).

food fervourMy love of avocado has extended beyond its nutritional value because I’m now aware of its other ‘superpowers’! My first experience came with a green smoothie recipe. My how stuff ‘thickens up’ when you add this little dude to the mix! I noticed raw mousse recipes relied heavily upon avocado as well. That got me thinking about the texture and consistency of cheesecake.

Now I’m certainly by no means a pioneer in the avocado cheesecake world, but I can say it’s hard to find many raw cheesecake recipes on the net that employ ‘avos’ as the primary ingredient, which would indicate there’s heaps of room for experimentation. The vast majority use blended cashews as the ‘cream cheese’ base. I thought avocado would work because it’s naturally bland on the palate, but the PERFECT creamy texture.

Passionfruit isn’t necessarily a real favourite of mine, but they have been in season and moreover, they have a strong flavour …and a ‘tanginess’… which is what you find in an ordinary cheesecake. So I grabbed me some of ’em and got crackin’.

All 3 attempts were well received by a variety of tasters, but the last version was the best and it’s simply because I upped the amount of passionfruit. The stronger the fruit flavour, the better. But if you are going to play around here, I’ll just remind you that the more fruit, the more ‘wet’ the mixture = the less well the final product will set or hold together. (Think of fruit with maximum flavour, minimal moisture…)

I used macadamia nuts for the base (borrowing from a recipe from Jo Whitton’s Quirky Cooking blog) because I always associate them with the tropics (and passionfruit’s definitely tropical) but almonds worked fine in my initial experiment so be creative if you like!food fervour

For the Base you will need: 130gm macadamias, 70gm desiccated/shredded coconut, 8 dates & a pinch of Himalayan salt

Simply blend everything thoroughly in a high powered blender (Thermomixers 20 seconds @ Speed 9) then press the mix over the base of a well-oiled (coconut oil is best) springform cake tin. Note: this will make a thin base – if you like thick cheesecake bases I recommend you double the ingredients. Set aside (or refrigerate in warmer climates).

For the Filling, you will need: 2 large (or 3 small) avocados, 4-5 passionfruit (depending upon how strong you’d like the flavour) 4 tablespoons maple syrup or coconut sugar, 4 tablespoons (approx 60 gm) coconut oil (melted), 2-3 teaspoons vanilla paste, optional 1 banana &/or ½-1 teaspoon grated ginger

Again, this is simply a blending exercise. (Even with a Thermomix I found myself stopping and starting, to check consistency & taste and scrape down the mixture) Start with the avocados, sugar/syrup, vanilla & if using, the banana/ginger. Blend well (Thermies approximately 20 seconds, Speed 5) Add the passionfruit pulp, blending until smooth (Thermies 20 seconds, Speed 5 & you may use Reverse speed so the passionfruit seeds aren’t pulverised initially). Finally add the coconut oil blending well again (Thermies 20 seconds, Speed 9 gradually)

Empty the filling over the base, smoothing off as evenly as possible, then allow to set in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes (or the freezer if you can’t wait that long!) Then serve and enjoy 🙂

 

Walnut, Apple & Cinnamon Coconut Balls

I’ve got a few organic green apples building up in my fridge and since I promised the Manager of Eden Health Retreat (where I work as a Fitness Therapist) a treat this week, I’ve put on my creative thinking cap. Apple goes so well with Cinnamon, yes? And Walnuts. Even though they aren’t the most appealing nuts in the taste department (unlike roasted almonds or cashews!) they are PACKED with goodness. So if you’re not a fan, maybe these morsels will help you to ingest them. You really should try to use organic apples as well, since they absorb more chemical residue (from pesticides, fertilisers etc) than many other fresh foods. Every year the Environmental Working Group (US) releases a list of the top 12 (“The Dirty Dozen”) foods to avoid if grown conventionally and apples seem to always appear near the top of the list. Here’s a link to the current list and the EWG site if you want to take a look: http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php

It’s been a long time since I have made ‘balls’. I went through my obsession with them about 6 or 7 years ago when I first delved into the Raw Food arena, but found them a little time consuming and messy to make, all up. Yes, not a great advertisement I realise, but I “gots ta be” honest! Even with the Thermomix, it’s the rolling out and coating of the little suckers that chews up your time…and dirties your hands.Food Fervour

Nonetheless, I had an idea (and some time) yesterday, so I was going to test it out. Lucky for me, it worked. Well, the boss-man hasn’t had his share yet, but my physio and some of my private training clients have given them the thumbs up! (See, training with me doesn’t involve suggestive purchase of protein/nutrtional supplements or products…. my clients get to be guinea pigs for my whole, clean food experiments!) Warning: they won’t be really sweet, but if you use a sweeter variety of apple it could suffice. As a LAST RESORT, if you HAVE to add sugar (wusses!) I think coconut sugar would be your best option.

Basically you will need:

1 cup (130gm) dates, 1 cup (250gm) water, 1 apple, 1½ cups (150gm) walnuts, 2-3 heaped tspns ground cinnamon, 1 cup (60gms) desiccated coconut (extra for rolling), 3-4 teaspoons chia seeds.

Soak the dates in the water for at least an hour, then drain as well as possible, pressing out excess fluid out (I told you your hands would get dirty!) Place roughly chopped apple (skin ON, for nutrient density & fibre – unless it’s not organic & you are justifiably concerned) in a high-powered blender (Thermomixers, you know it!) until finely chopped. This will invariably involve a few stop-starts as you’ll need to scrape down the sides of the blender. Set the apple aside, rinsing & drying the blender as well as possible so that you can ‘pulverise’ (or not: sometimes chunks are good!) the walnuts. (Thermies: 5-10 secs, speed 7ish) Add the cinnamon, dates, apple, coconut and chia seeds, then blend and scrape until you feel the mixture is well enough combined.

Now, the messy part: pop some extra desiccated coconut on a large (dinner) plate and …..go wash your hands again! To make sure the balls are really ‘compact’ I palm roll them first, then roll in the coconut, and palm roll them again. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.