Lentil, roast beetroot, fetta and herb salad

lentil-beetroot-fetta-salad

This is a tasty and substantial winter salad recipe that can be enjoyed as a meal in itself or to compliment your favourite protein.

Lentils are high in fibre which lowers bad cholesterol and helps prevent blood sugars from rising sharply after a meal. They are a good source of protein for vegetarians and are loaded with vitamins and minerals particularly folate which plays an important role in DNA synthesis and repair, and aids tissue growth. Folate is an essential nutrient for pregnant women particularly the first trimester.

Beetroot, known as beet in the US, is also an excellent source of folate. Traditionally revered for helping purify the blood and liver, beetroot is widely credited for aiding the body’s detoxification process. Beetroot has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and is one of nature’s richest sources of glutamine, an amino acid essential to the health and maintenance of the intestinal tract.

Parsley and coriander/cilantro are rich in phyto nutrients and are both excellent sources of vitamin k. Fresh lemon juice is wonderfully alkalising and has a number of properties that aid digestion and help alleviate the symptoms of bloating and heartburn.

To improve the digestibility of this salad, I like to soak the lentils overnight before cooking. However, if you’re short of time this step is not essential or you can choose tinned lentils instead.

Ingredients

  • 3 medium sized beetroot/beets (or substitute with a 400g/14 oz tin if you prefer)
  • Large handful of parsley leaves, approx 10g or ⅓ oz
  • Large handful of coriander/cilantro leaves, approx 10g or ⅓ oz
  • 200g/7oz black (French) lentils (or substitute with a 400g/14 oz tin if you prefer)
  • 100g/3.5 oz fetta
  • 30g/1oz rocket/arugula
  • Half a french onion
  • 1.5 tablespoons olive oil

Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1.5 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 0.5 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 small clove of garlic, crushed
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. If you have time, soak the lentils overnight (ideally for at least 12 hours) then rinse
  2. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  3. Peel the beetroot and cut into smallish chunks (roughly 2.5cm/1 inch each side), drizzle with approximately 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil and roast for an hour
  4. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to the boil and cook the lentils for 20-25 minutes. If you don’t have time you can use tinned lentils instead
  5. Finely chop the onion, parsley and coriander/cilantro leaves
  6. Mix the salad dressing ingredients in a small glass jar and shake well
  7. Place the lentils, beetroot, herbs, rocket and onion into a large salad bowl
  8. Gradually add the dressing until there’s plenty to cover the salad ingredients but not too much (you may not need to use all the dressing)
  9. Crumble the fetta over the top

This salad can be enjoyed hot or cold.

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side

Red cabbage, goat’s cheese, walnut & sultana salad

red-cabbage-saladThis salad is extremely quick and easy to make, packed with nutrition and is particularly good for the stomach and digestive tract.

Cabbage contains sinigrin which has been linked to helping the body fight cancer, in particular bladder, colon and prostate cancer. It is high in fibre, has unique cholesterol lowering properties and is wonderful for the stomach and digestive tract (cabbage juice is often used as a tonic to help heal stomach ulcers). Red cabbage contains higher phytonutrient quantities than other cabbage varieties and up to 6-8 times more antioxidants.

Raw apple cider vinegar is a wonderful health tonic. It has been proven to help lower blood sugar levels which is particularly beneficial for those suffering from diabetes. Raw apple cider vinegar is anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, has an alkalising effect on the body and is a marvelous digestive tonic that can help alleviate reflux, bloating and indigestion.

Walnuts are rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids and contain a form of vitamin E that is said to help protect the body against cardiovascular disease. They are also rich in copper and manganese.

Ingredients

  • Quarter of a red cabbage, roughly chopped
  • 100g/3.5 oz goat’s cheese or fetta
  • 70g/2.5oz walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 70g/2.5oz sultanas/raisins

Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive
  • 2 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Make the dressing by placing the ingredients in a glass jar with a lid and shaking well
  2. Place the cabbage in a salad bowl and gradually add the dressing until it gently coats all the cabbage – don’t overdo it (you may not need all the salad dressing)
  3. If you have time, allow to sit for 10 minutes then add the walnuts, sultanas/raisins and crumble the cheese through

Serves 4

 

Gluten free dark chocolate walnut brownies

gluten-free-dark-chocolate-brownie-5
I’ve been playing around with gluten free chocolate brownie recipes that are naturally low in sugar. I’ve tested this recipe out on a few groups of friends and it’s a winner amongst those that like a bitter, dark chocolate taste without the sugar hit.

The rich dark chocolate flavour comes from raw cacao – a nutrient dense food that is extremely high in antioxidants. Antioxidants play an important role in helping the body fight damage from free radicals. Chemical reactions caused by free radicals occur naturally in the body, however when our bodies are put under excessive stress from free radicals (caused by things such as pollution, toxic chemical, smoking, and stress) it can lead to health problems and chronic illnesses. Raw cacao contains more than 300 different chemical compounds, on average four times the antioxidant properties of ordinary dark chocolate and 20 times more antioxidants than blueberries (some source claim that this figure is more like 40 times). It is rich in iron, magnesium and calcium and stimulates mood enhancing chemicals in the brain.

Modern science suggests that organic, grass fed butter is not the evil it’s been demonised to be over the past few decades. It is a good source of vitamins A, E and K2 – which is fairly rare in the modern diet and plays an important role in assisting the body absorb calcium. Consuming fat from butter is much preferable than consuming margarine which is a highly synthetic food, made from low grade refined oils.

Walnuts pack a powerful nutritional punch. They are extremely rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, a good source of vitamin E and are said to support cardiovascular health, fight cancer and promote overall well being.

Ingredients

I tend not to consume refined sugars so my palette has adjusted to prefer recipes that are not overly sweet. However, if you’re making these brownies for a more mainstream palette, simply add a little extra maple syrup or your chosen sweetener.

  • 150g / 5.5oz butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 70g / 2.5 oz raw cacao
  • 165ml /5.5 fl oz coconut milk
  • 60g / 2 oz coconut flour
  • 80ml /2.7 fl oz maple syrup (for a sweeter palette, add extra maple syrup  ~110 ml / 3.75 fl oz). You can substitute for coconut nectar and could also try honey if you prefer. If using rice malt syrup you’ll need to add extra since it’s not as sweet.
  • 100g /3.5 oz walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 4 tablespoons water

Method

  1. Grease a small tray suitable for brownies (I don’t have one so use a mini lasagne dish)
  2. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  3. Melt the butter then add the cacao, coconut flour, maple syrup (or chosen sweetener), coconut milk and water
  4. Beat in the eggs
  5. Add the chopped walnuts
  6. Transfer mixture to baking tray and cook for 25 minutes. Insert a skewer to make sure the mixture is cooked (it should exit without being covered in gooey chocolate mixture). If not cook for an extra 3 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool then cut into squares and transfer to a wire cooling rack until you’re ready to eat

Makes 12 brownies.

Enjoy with a cup of tea or for a decadent treat serve with some fresh mascarpone.

Zucchini noodles with basil pesto

basil-pesto
This is a super light and tasty dish that works beautifully topped with your favourite protein and smashed avocado for a good serve of healthy fats.

Zucchinis. known as courgettes in the UK, are wonderfully alkalising vegetables rich in antioxidants. They are beneficial for eye health and contain a special type of pectin which has been linked to helping the body regulate insulin and protect against diabetes. They’re also very low in calories so perfect for those trying to lose weight or on a low-carb diet.

Like many other green leafy vegetables, basil is rich in vitamin K which plays an important role in the body helping blood clot, building healthy bones and providing support for the cardiovascular system. Basil contains flavonoids that help protect the body’s white blood cells against DNA damage and have antibacterial qualities that help protect against unwanted bacterial growth. Basil oil has anti-inflammatory qualities that may be beneficial for those with arthritis.

Basil pesto

  • 2 cups basil approx 50g
  • 50g / 1.75oz parmesan
  • 50 / 1.75oz pine nuts
  • 1 large clove of garlic/1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (or 4-5 tablespoons if you like a runnier pesto that will keep a little longer in the fridge)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

Place the ingredients in a food processor or high powered blender and blend until smooth. You will end up with the consistency of a thick paste. To thin I add water when cooking but prefer not to add it when making the pesto as it doesn’t tend to keep as long. Alternatively you can add a tablespoon or two extra of olive oil when blending and this will result in a runnier, more traditional style pesto and will also help it keep longer in the fridge.

Zucchini noodles

  • 6 medium to large zucchinis / courgettes (approx 600g / 21oz)
  • 18 cherry tomatoes
  • 30g /1oz pine nuts
  • OPTIONAL: half a ripe avocado
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit for at least 5 minutes
  2. Place the cherry tomatoes on a baking tray and roast for 15 minutes until soft
  3. Heat a pan to a medium heat and dry cook the pine nuts for a minute or two, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon until golden brown. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  4. Create your zucchini noodles using either a food processor, mandolin slicer or if you don’t have one you can use a good old fashioned cheese grater (obviously this won’t be as pretty but the effect will be the same)
  5. If you have time and you wish to drain out the excess liquid from the zucchinis, place them in a food colander, sprinkle with salt and allow to sit for 10 minutes or so then rinse thoroughly and pat dry (I’m happy with a little extra liquid in my noodles so don’t worry about this step)
  6. If using avocado, mash it with a fork (and if you have a little fresh lemon, sprinkle a tiny bit of juice over the top to keep it nice and green)
  7. Heat a saucepan to a medium heat, add the olive oil and saute the zucchini for a minute until lightly warmed through then set aside
  8. Place 3 generous tablespoons of pesto in the pan. If you used 3 tablespoons of olive oil when making the pesto you will need to add approx 2 tablespoons of water to the pan. If you made the pesto with extra olive oil, you won’t need the water. Allow to heat and if using pesto and water stir with a wooden spool until mixed to a thin paste
  9. Return the zucchini to the pan with the pesto for a short time (less than a minute) until the pesto is mixed through the zucchini
  10. Top with the roasted baby tomatoes, pine nuts and smashed avocado (if using avocado)
  11. Serve with your favourite protein (I like poached chicken – if you’re vegetarian chickpeas work well)

Serves 2

zucchini-noodles-basil-pesto

Chocolate Buckwheat Pancakes

chocolate-buckwheat-pancakes-2

This recipe comes courtesy of my aunt who is gluten, dairy and processed sugar free. It’s her favourite breakfast of the moment topped some seasonal fruit and is even popular with her husband and teenage kids – who like them drizzled with maple syrup.

Buckwheat is a wonderful grain substitute with a whole host of health promoting properties. It’s relatively high in protein and contains all eight essential amino acids making it a good option for vegetarians.

Evidence suggests that regular consumption of buckwheat can help lower the risk of developing high blood pressure and high cholesterol (precursors to heart disease), thanks to the presence of a number of powerful flavonoids including rutin.

Regular consumption of buckwheat has also been linked to the reduction of type 2 diabetes according to an extensive Canadian research study published in 2003.

Raw cacao is one of the most nutrient rich foods on earth with the highest antioxidant concentration of any food in nature (thanks also to its high flavonoid content). Coconut flour is high in fibre and cinnamon provides both a subtle flavour enhancement and has also been linked to lowering blood sugar in people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

Ingredients

  • Half a cup / 70g / 2.5 oz  buckwheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
  • 1 tablespoon coconut flour
  • Stevia (equivalent to 2 teaspoons of sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 egg
  • ~ 4 teaspoons coconut oil or other oil for greasing

Method

  1. Sift all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl
  2. Stir in the almond milk until completely mixed
  3. Beat in the egg until the batter is smooth
  4. Heat a small frying pan to a medium-high heat
  5. Add add a teaspoon of coconut oil to grease the frying pan
  6. Pour in a quarter of the batter
  7. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the top starts to bubble and the bottom is sufficiently cooked that you can flip the pancake
  8. Cook the second side for approximately 3 minutes
  9. Remove from the pan and repeat the process for the remaining 3 pancakes
  10. Serve with fresh banana and berries, other seasonal fruit or your favourite topping

Serve 2

Makes 4 medium sized pancakes – 2 each

Cauliflower cous cous salad with rocket and goat’s cheese

cauliflour-rocket-moroccan-salad
This salad is another mid week star. It’s delicious, quick and easy to make and loaded with nutrition plus it’s wonderful for the digestive system thanks to the cumin seeds and fresh mint leaves.

I’ve written lots of posts on this blog about the health benefits of cauliflower. It’s a cruciferous vegetable that’s high in vitamin C, rich in antioxidants and has been credited for its cancer fighting properties.

Rocket/arugula is a lesser known cruciferous vegetable that contains some of the common compounds that give cruciferous vegetables their bitter taste. It’s thought that these compounds (glucosinolates) may be key to their cancer fighting properties. Rocket also contains high nitrate levels which are thought to help lower blood pressure.

Add this dish to your repertoire of recipes to help support your body in obtaining nutrients from a wide range of unprocessed foods.

Ingredients

  • Half a small to medium cauliflower
  • Half a medium sized onion (choose brown or red), finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 100g/3.5 oz rocket/arugala
  • Good handful of fresh mint leaves
  • Good handful of fresh coriander leaves
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 60g/2oz good quality goat’s cheese
  • Palmful of tamari almonds (around 30g or 1oz) – roughly chopped
  • OPTIONAL: palmful of dried currants (around 30g or 1oz)

Method

  1. Trim the cauliflower florets from the stem and place in a food processor. Whizz until the cauliflower resembles the consistency of cous cous
  2. Heat a frying pan to a medium-high heat and add the olive oil then fry the onion and cumin seeds until translucent
  3. Add the cauliflower, season with salt and pepper and fry for around 5 minutes until the cauliflower is tender (taste it – it should taste lightly cooked). Add a little water if the pan starts to get dry
  4. Remove the mixture from the heat and place in a large mixing bowl, allowing to cool slightly
  5. Add the rocket, mint and coriander to the cauliflower mixture and dress with the remaining olive oil and lemon juice
  6. Crumble the goat’s cheese and mix through – if using currants add them at this time also
  7. Sprinkle with the choped tamari almonds and serve

Delicious topped with poached chicken or served with white fish

Serves 2

Baba Ghanoush

baba-ghanoush
Baba ghanoush is a smoked eggplant/aubergine dish popular throughout the middle east. This particular style of baba ghanoush – made with tahini, garlic and lemon juice has its roots in Egyptian cuisine and is served with bread, however I love to eat it as a dip with fresh vegetables such as carrot, cucumber and capsicum.

Eggplants are high in phytonutrients and have powerful antioxidant qualities. According to the World’s Healthiest Foods, eggplants contain significant amounts of chlorogenic acid which is credited for its cancer fighting properties and is also said to lower bad cholesterol and promote antiviral and antimicrobial functions within the body. Tahini is rich in minerals – particularly calcium and is said to aid the body with liver detoxification.

Enjoy this dish as a starter or a snack with fresh vegetables and you’ll be loading your body with vitamins, minerals and fibre.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium-large sized eggplant
  • 4 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic or 2 large cloves of garlic
  • juice of one lemon (should be approximately 4 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin

Method

  • Heat a BBQ, chargrill or regular grill on your oven to a medium to high heat
  • Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Take a fork and make incisions throughout the eggplant (around 10). This is a critical step – I’ve forgotten to do it one time and the eggplant exploded in my oven
  • Place the eggplant/aubergine on the bbq/chargrill or under the grill on your oven and allow the skin to blacken and wrinkle all over – this should take around 15 minutes
  • Place the eggplant in the oven and roast for 20 minutes until soft
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool, then peel (the skin should easily lift off at this stage)
  • Place the eggplant flesh and other ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth

Enjoy as is or drizzle with a little olive oil and some chilli.

Chickpea super salad

chickpea-cucumber-pea-fetta-salad-2
This is a tasty salad that can be made quickly from a few fresh ingredients and some staples that are easily kept in the fridge or pantry

The flavours work well together and the salad provides a great boost of fibre.  In fact, half a cup of chickpeas or garbanzo beans contains a quarter of your recommended daily fibre intake for the day.

The peas are rich in antioxidants and studies have linked the consumption of peas to prevention of stomach cancer. Cucumbers and alkalising and contain the mineral silica which supports healthy hair and nails.

The ingredients here are a guide however feel free to substitute for what you have on hand – for example snow peas work well in place of peas, goats cheese and fetta are interchangeable and parsley can be substituted with coriander/cilantro or any other fresh her you particularly like.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of chickpeas
  • Half a cup of fresh peas
  • 1 Lebanese cucumber
  • Half an avocado
  • 4 tablespoons of sunflower seeds
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of marinated fetta or goat’s cheese
  • Small handful of parsley leaves

Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Method

  1. To toast the sunflower seeds, heat a frying pan to a medium heat. Add the sunflower seeds and dry fry for a minute or two, tossing regularly to ensure they don’t burn.
  2. Chop the cucumber, avocado and parsley leaves and place in a large salad bowl. Add the other ingredients, dressing and mix through again
  3. Sprinkle the salad with the toasted sunflower seeds
  4. Enjoy as a light meal or serve with a light protein

Serves 2

Mini breakfast frittatas

breakfast-mini-frittata

The first time I was put on a detox, I was told to cut out all processed foods, sugars, grains, dairy, coffee, tea and alcohol and to incorporate protein with every meal and lots of colourful vegetables.

This meant quite a shift in my eating habits but hardest for me was working out what to have for breakfast each day. I was so used to eating cereal with milk washed down with a cup of English breakfast tea (some things from my English upbringing still stick). Cutting out dairy, sugars and grains in the morning meant a massive shift.

A friend suggested these breakfast frittatas and they’re now a regular breakfast staple for me. Make them on a Sunday night and they’ll last until Wednesday which for me means I have something healthy to eat on the run after I train in the mornings and before I start work.

Ingredients

  • 8 large eggs
  • 1 onion
  • 1 red capsicum
  • 1 cup mushrooms
  • 2 handfuls baby spinach
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

And any of the following for some extra flavour (although not essential if you prefer to stick to vegetables):

  •  50-75g / 2-2.5oz goat’s cheese (depending on your taste) or any other cheese of your choice, grated

OR

  • 6 slices free range ham/6 slices free range bacon, fat trimmed

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 165 Celsius or 330 degrees Fahrenheit.

Finely chop the onion. If using bacon, trim the fat and cut into pieces. Heat a frying pan to a medium heat and once hot add the olive oil, allow to heat for around 10 seconds then fry the onion until golden brown. If using bacon, fry this at the same time with the onion. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Chop the remaining vegetables into smallish chunks. Beat the eggs with a fork and add a pinch of salt and pepper then stir through the chopped vegetables and onion mixture. If you’re not using bacon, crumble through the goat’s cheese at this stage or add the grated cheese or the chopped ham.

Spoon into 12 muffin cases and bake for around 30-35 minutes until golden brown and springy to the touch.

Eat straight from the oven or keep refrigerated for up to 4 days.

Makes 12 mini frittatas.

breakfast-mini-frittatas

Paleo Carrot & Walnut Muffins

paleo-carrot-muffin

I’ve tried so many paleo/gluten free muffin recipes that haven’t stacked up against their traditional counterparts but after much trial and error, I’ve come up with a recipe that I think works well. I tested it out recently by taking a batch to a bake sale and they sold out with people coming back for seconds.

I like to include sultanas/raisins as I find they really balance out the dense nuttiness of the muffins, however they can be excluded if you’re trying to minimise sugar in your diet (in which case definitely choose the rice malt syrup sweetener option provided).

Ingredients

  • 5 medium carrots, grated
  • 3 eggs
  • 80g/3oz or around 3/4 cup almond meal (I make my own by placing activated or raw almonds in the food processor – either works fine in this recipe)
  • 80g/3oz or around 3/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1 small teaspoon bicarbonate soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of natural vanilla essence
  • 1/2 cup of rice malt syrup (if you’re paleo, substitute with coconut nectar, honey or maple syrup – you’ll only need a third of a cup as these are all sweeter than rice malt syrup)
  • ¼ cup coconut milk (you can use either traditional tinned/canned coconut milk or the type that is sold as drinking coconut milk)
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/2  cup of chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup of sultanas/raisins (optional)

Method

If using sultanas/raisins, soak them in a cup of hot water (just off boiling) while preparing the muffins. This makes them super moist.

Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius/350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Grease your muffin tins (you will need enough to cook 12 muffins), alternatively you can use greaseproof paper muffin cups.

Combine the coconut flour, almond meal, cinnamon and bicarbonate of soda and set aside.

Separately, beat the eggs, coconut milk, rice malt syrup (or substitute), vanilla essence and coconut oil (it should be runny not set). I use a hand held electric blender for this exercise. Add the mashed banana and blend again until well mixed.

Drain the sultanas/raisins (if using them).

Combine the wet and dry mixtures, then fold through the grated carrots, walnuts and sultanas/raisins (again, if you’re using them).

Divide into 12 muffins and bake for 30 minutes, or until you can put a skewer in and it returns dry.

Note

A word of warning, this recipe does take a bit of time to prepare – somewhere around 40 minutes. Add cooking and cleaning time and it’s probably more of a weekend project for me. However these muffins do stay nice and moist for up to 5 days and can be kept in the freezer for up to 3 months, so you can make batches in advance and keep them for the weeks ahead (if they last that long).