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

White cabbage and iceberg salad

white-cabbage-iceberg-salad3
I’m loving this white cabbage salad at the moment. The combination of herbs, capers and toasted sunflower seeds coupled with the white wine and lemon dressing give it a really unique flavour. I’m not usually the biggest fan of dill but it really works well in his recipe.

Best of all the cabbage is super nutritious. A member of the cruciferous vegetable family, cabbage is rich in antioxidants and like other cruciferous vegetables has been credited for its cancer fighting properties. Cabbage is high in glucosinolates, a group of natural plant compounds that help the body stimulate detoxification and fight inflammation, activities that are particularly beneficial in the fight against breast, bladder, colon and prostate cancer. Cabbage is also wonderfully soothing for the stomach and digestive tract.

I didn’t used to think too much about the health benefits of herbs but parsley is extremely rich in vitamin K which plays a major role in promoting healthy bones and supporting calcium absorption and blood clotting within the body. Dill is a great source of calcium and although the serve in this dish is small it’s important to consume nutrients from a wide variety of natural plant sources. The generous sprinkling of sunflower seeds provides a good source of vitamin E and a range of trace minerals.

Ingredients

  • 200g /7oz white cabbage (around a quarter of a small-to-medium sized cabbage)
  • 100g /3.5 oz iceberg lettuce (around a quarter of a small-to-medium sized iceberg lettuce)
  • 4 tablespoons sunflower seeds
  • 2 small eschalots/scallions/small spring onions
  • generous handful of flat parsley leaves (around 10g / ⅓ oz)
  • small handful dill leaves (around 5g/ ⅕ oz)
  • 1 teaspoon capers
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (approximately the juice of a small-medium sized lemon)
  • 3 tablespoons cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon good quality white wine vinegar

Method

  1. Toast the sunflower seeds for a couple of minutes until golden brown (I do this under the grill or in a dry frying pan over a medium-high heat). Check/toss regularly while cooking to make sure they don’t burn. Set aside to cool
  2. Wash the lettuce and cabbage and slice into long thin strips then place in a large salad bowl
  3. Finely chop the white part of the eschalots/scallions/spring onions, the parsley, dill and capers and mix through the cabbage and lettuce
  4. Drizzle lightly with the dressing (you’ll only need a couple of tablespoons, not the whole lot). Mix through thoroughly and add a little extra if need be
  5. Season with salt and pepper then add the sunflower seeds and mix through

This dish works well topped with some poached chicken or served with fish or with legumes for vegans/vegetarians. It also tastes great with half an avocado chopped and mixed through.

Serves 2

Moroccan Fish with Preserved Lemon and Dukkah

baked-white-fish-dukkah-preserved-lemon
I’m loving Moroccan flavours with fish at the moment, they transform a light and healthy meal into a dish with the most amazing flavour.

Preserved lemons are used commonly in Moroccan and Middle Eastern cuisine, made by rubbing the rinds of whole lemons with salt and leaving them to pickle in brine, lemon juice and spices for at least several weeks (often a lot longer).

I recently ran out of my own home made preserved lemons so bought some handmade ones from a good providore. They weren’t cheap but tasted excellent so were definitely worth the investment, plus you really don’t need to use a great deal to transform the flavour of any dish. Try to avoid buying mass produced preserved lemons from the supermarket as they just won’t taste the same.

Dukkah is also used commonly in Moroccan and Middle Eastern dishes and is made by grinding a variety nuts such as hazelnuts, pistachios and almonds with sesame, cumin and coriander seeds. I’ll be posting a Dukkah recipe shortly but if you don’t have time to make your own, there are plenty of good options available from quality health food stores. I’ve tried the About Life dukkah made here in Sydney and it’s excellent.

Ingredients

  • 2 x fillets of your favourite white fish approx 180-200g / 6.5-7 oz
  • 1 x fresh lemon
  • Roughly a quarter or 2 tablespoons of preserved lemon
  • 4 tablespoons dukkah
  • A large sheet of aluminium foil roughly 40cm/6 inches

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius / 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Lay out 2 squares of aluminium foil roughly 20cm / 8 inch each side
  3. Slice the fresh lemon into thin slices and place half on each of the foil squares to create a bed for each of the fish fillets
  4. Place the fish on top of the lemon beds and fold the foil back on itself to create a parcel for each of the fillets
  5. Roast for approximately 15 – 20 minutes (this works for fillets approximately 2.5cm /1 inch thick so adjust according to the thickness of your fillets and how well you like your fish cooked)
  6. Remove from the oven and test to ensure the fish is cooked to your liking. If not return to the oven for a couple of minutes
  7. Once cooked, remove the fish and lemon from the foil and place on two plates, drizzling any excess lemon juice from the foil parcels over the fish
  8. Chop the preserved lemon into small pieces and arrange over the fish then sprinkle with the dukkah and serve

Serves 2

This dish goes beautifully with my rocket and cauliflower cous cous salad.

Green Banana Smoothie

cancer-fighting-green-banana-smoothie-2I’m such a big fan of green smoothies and am always experimenting with new recipes.

Three key prerequisites for my green smoothies are that they contain plenty of green vegetables (not just a few spinach leaves), limited sugar (from fruit and other ingredients) and that they taste good.

This smoothie contains a good serve of steamed broccoli, which has a whole host of health promoting properties. There’s an increasing amount of evidence to suggest that regular consumption of broccoli (think at least half a cup per day or a cup 3 – 4 times per week) helps the body fight against cancer. According to the World’s Healthiest Foods this is thanks to a unique combination of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and pro-detoxification properties.

Similarly, spinach is rich in antioxidants and like broccoli provides the body with a good source of vitamins A & K. This is particularly useful for those who are vitamin D deficient as vitamins A & K help the body keep vitamin D metabolism in balance.

Cucumbers are wonderfully light, alkalising vegetables (as is spinach) also with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They contain three key lignans (chemical compounds found in plants) that have been associated with reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease as well as breast, uterine, ovarian and prostate cancers.

Bananas provide a good source of potassium which helps the body maintain healthy blood pressure and heart function. They also provide a sweet, creamy consistency to the smoothie.

If I’m running low on broccoli or spinach, i’ll often substitute with some kale. You don’t have to be too precise with the ingredients, again use what you have readily available at home and if you like, add some protein powder or your other favourite supplement powder. I’ll often throw in a tablespoon of hydrolysed collagen (which I find unpalatable taken alone) .

Ingredients

  • 150 g / 5.25 oz steamed broccoli
  • 100 g / 3.5 oz spinach (I use English spinach or baby spinach leaves)
  • 1 large banana
  • 1 small lebanese cucumber or half a large one
  • 300 ml / 10 fl oz coconut water
  • 200 ml / 6.75 fl oz water
  • Quarter cup of ice
  • OPTIONAL: tablespoon of protein powder or supplement of your choice

Method

Steam the broccoli and allow to cool. I often steam batches and keep them in the freezer, you can blend straight from the freezer.

Add all ingredients to a high powered blender and blend until smooth.

Serves 2

Note, I was given a new high powered blender for Christmas the ingredients i’ve listed are a bit too much to fit into one of the jugs so I divide between 2 (one each for my partner and I).

cancer-fighting-green-banana-smoothie

Baked blue eye fillet with baby tomatoes and olives

baked-blue-eye-tomato-olivesThis dish has to be one of my favourite ways to enjoy fish. I make it with blue eye trevalla – a fish that’s widely available in the Southern Hemisphere, with a firm white flesh and a delicious mild flavour. However the recipe will work with pretty much any good-eating white fish so is adaptable for whatever’s available locally.

Tomatoes are an excellent source of lycopene – a phytonutrient that’s rich in antioxidants. According to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a study by Cornell University in the US in 2002 found that cooking tomatoes increases the body’s ability to absorb lycopene and also increases total antioxidant activity. In fact, the study found that amongst the different cooking times tested, the longest cooking times rendered the highest increases in lycopene and total antioxidant levels – great in this dish where the tomatoes are roasted for around 45 minutes.

If you’re not keen on olives, you can leave them out. The tomatoes and white wine will add enough flavour during cooking process as will garnishing with fresh parsley leaves prior to serving. Personally however, I find the olives add a delicious, intense flavour boost to the dish.

Ingredients

  • 1 x 400g – 500g / 14 -18 oz fillet of blue eye (or any other firm white fish) – or two smaller fillets
  • 150g /5 1/4 oz mixed baby tomatoes (I choose cherry tomatoes, baby roma and yellow tomatoes)
  • 12-18 pitted black olives (depending on size and how much you like olives)
  • 5 tablespoons white wine
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • handful of fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper to season

Method

  1. Choose an overproof dish that your fish will fit snuggly into – I choose a smallish lasagna dish
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius or 300 degrees Fahrenheit – allow to heat for 10 minutes
  3. Season your fish fillet and place it into the dish
  4. Arrange the tomatoes and olives over the fish and around the dish
  5. Mix the white wine and olive oil and drizzle over the fish and tomatoes
  6. Tear the parsley leaves from the stalks and place the stalks around the dish
  7. Cover  the dish with foil, place in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until the fish is cooked through
  8. Remove from the oven and turn the temperature up to 180 degrees Celsius/350 degrees Fahrenheit
  9. Leave the fish to rest and return the tomatoes to the oven. Roast for an extra 10 minutes
  10. Chop the parsley leaves (not too fine – quarters to eighths should be sufficient)
  11. Divide the fish between 2 plates, drizzle with the juices from the dish and cover with the tomatoes
  12. Top with the chopped parsley

This dish is delicious served with a green salad dressed with a lemon vinaigrette

Serves 2

 

Roast vegetable ratatouille

Roast-vegetable-ratatouilleThis is my take on the classic French Provencal vegetable stew. I love to make it a night or two ahead so that the flavours blend beautifully and I have a light and healthy vegetable dish ready for an easy after-work meal. It’s highly versatile and is suitable for those on a paleo diet, people looking to limit their calorie or starchy carbohydrate intake and vegans.

Traditionally, the vegetables are pan friend however I prefer to roast them with some garlic. This adds a delicious caramelised flavour to the dish which I balance by adding a generous serve of black olives. If you’re not a fan of olives, simply leave them out, the dish is delicious without them too.

I always have fresh basil on hand but if you have fresh thyme available throw in a handful of chopped leaves when you add the roast vegetables to the crushed tomatoes.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium sized red capsicum (or one red and one yellow)
  • 1 medium sized eggplant
  • 2 small to medium zucchinis
  • 1 medium to large sized onion (I like Spanish but brown works too)
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 x tin 400g tin/14 fl oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • Large handful of fresh basil leaves to serve
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Optional: 18 black olives, pitted

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius/350 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Peel the garlic cloves
  3. Chop up the rest of the vegetables into medium sized chunks
  4. Drizzle the chopped vegetables and garlic cloves with the olive oil
  5. Place on a baking tray and cook for in the oven for 50 minutes
  6. Remove and add to a large saucepan with the crushed tomatoes and optionally the black olives (if using them)
  7. Simmer for 20-30 minutes until the flavours have merged well

Delicious served with cous cous (great for vegans), some baked white fish or with your favourite protein.

Serves 4 (as a side dish)

 

Tomato and buffalo mozzarella salad with eggplant and poached chicken

poached-chicken-buffalo-mozzarella-salad

In my opinion, buffalo mozzarella is one of the most delicious foods on earth – particularly when served with fresh ripe tomatoes and basil. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that milk and milk products from the domestic buffalo are easier on the digestive system that cow’s milk and cheese. Buffalo milk (and cheese) is also thought to help those with eczema and psoriasis and be beneficial for those with irritable bowel syndrome.

Rocket (known in the US as arugala) is a lesser known cruciferous vegetable (think broccoli, cauliflower and kale) and is high in vitamins K and A and provides a bitter flavour that is complimented wonderfully by the balsamic dressing.

For extra protein, I like to mix through some poached chicken breast which on its own can be bland but in this dish provides a good textural balance and a light flavour that doesn’t overpower the rest of the dish.

Ingredients

  • 1 large chicken breast (choose organic or free range)
  • 1 buffalo mozzarella (approximately 125g)
  • 100g rocket (you can substitute with mixed salad leaves)
  • 14 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 small eggplant, sliced horizontally so that the pieces are about 1.5cm or half an inch thick
  • half an avocado
  • half a dozen basil leaves
  • 4 medium sized button mushrooms (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons good quality balsamic
  • 3 generous tablespoons cold pressed extra virgin olive oil

Method

  1. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and add a pinch of salt and pepper
  2. Add the chicken breast and ensure that it’s completely covered by the water, then cover the saucepan with a lid and reduce the heat to a low simmer
  3. Allow to cook for 15 minutes and check to make sure the chicken is cooked through. If not cook for a few minutes more ensuring not to overcook (otherwise it will become rubbery). Remove from the heat and allow to cool
  4. Meanwhile, bring a char grill pan to a medium high heat and while it’s heating brush the eggplant with ~2 tablespoons of olive oil. Place in the pan and cook for approximately 7 minutes each side until nicely charred then remove from the heat and set aside
  5. Place the remaining olive oil and balsamic in a small glass jar with a lid and mix well
  6. Chop the cherry tomatoes in half and tear the basil leaves so that there’s enough to place on each of the tomatoes. Add to a salad bowl and combine with the salad leaves, avocado and mushrooms if you’re using them, then mix through half to 2 thirds of the dressing as required
  7. Divide into 2 bowls and place half the eggplant on top of each
  8. Tear the buffalo mozzarella and divide evenly between the two bowls
  9. Once the chicken has cooked down slice it and place half on each of the salads then drizzle with the remaining dressing

Serves 2

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

Sesame crusted tuna salad with tamarind dressing

sesame-crusted-tuna
This tuna salad is another one of my mid week staples.

It’s light, tasty and can be made in around 15 minutes so is perfect as a healthy after-work meal when you have little time or energy to cook.

Fresh tuna is rich in omega 3 essential fatty acids which promotes heart health and is particularly beneficial for those with high blood pressure. It’s an excellent source of high quality protein and contains selenium – an essential mineral that plays an important role in supporting the body’s immune system. Sesame seeds are loaded with minerals and also contain a good amount of selenium, making this a great dish to help the body maintain optimal health.

I’ve paired it here with a light salad and tamarind dressing but it also works well with a garden salad dressed with lemon juice and olive oil.

Ingredients

  • 2 medium sized fresh tuna steak
  • 4 tablespoons white sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Salad

  • 3 cups mixed lettuce
  • 1/2 avocado
  • generous handful of coriander/cilantro leaves
  • 1 lebanese cucumber
  • generous handful of cashews

Tamarind dressing

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (should be about the juice of one lime)
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1.5 tablespoon rice malt syrup
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind puree

Method

  1. Make the salad dressing by adding the ingredients to a small glass jar with a lid and shaking well
  2. Place the salad ingredients in a large salad bowl and keep the cashews set aside
  3. Mix the sesame seeds on a plate and season with a little salt and pepper then coat the tuna steaks with the mixture
  4. Bring a heavy based stainless steel frying pan to a high heat and add the olive oil
  5. Fry the tuna steaks for a couple of minutes each side so that they are seared. If you prefer your tuna cooked through, cook for around double the time but keep an eye on the fish as cooking time will depend on the thickness of the tuna steak and you don’t want to over-cook
  6. While the tuna is cooking, pour the dressing over the salad (you may not need the whole lot so be careful not to overdo it) then split between two bowls and sprinkle the cashews over the top
  7. Once the tuna steaks are cooked to your liking serve immediately

Serves 2

Note: as tuna is a large fish, it’s generally recommended to not consumer more than two serves a week due to the potential risk of mercury contamination.

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.