Tomato risotto with a twist!

Today has been feeling a bit of a slow day, I think I’m still recovering from doing my longest ever run yesterday (13.5k, and I ran all the way, no walking or stopping!) and being kicked out of bed at 6am didn’t help either.

Soon to be breakfast smoothie!To give me a good kick start I had a huge morning smoothie as usual, that’s my only breakfast nowadays and I love it, it gives me a lot more energy and keeps me fuller longer than many other breakfasts, even things like porridge. I always change it a bit but the base is always a few bananas and a small handful of dates, it’s delicious just like that but I can add berries, pineapple (like today), spinach, green lettuce, mango… you get the idea. I’ve never added yogurt or other dairy, I just don’t feel the need for it. Also, I will need a total separate post on why I’m happy to eat so much fruit and not only I don’t believe it to be bad but I find it hugely beneficial.

Moving on! I had already today’s lunch planned (I’m trying to be good and make weekly menus to spend and waste less) so no last minute weird combination, instead we had a lovely tomato risotto, with a twist! My mum gave me this recipe when, not long ago, while on the phone to her I told her how it was almost dinner time, I had no idea what to make and an ’empty’ fridge.. she asked me what I had and I told her I pretty much only had pesto so it would have probably ended up in a fairly unexciting pasta with pesto. How wrong was I! This risotto is amazing and far from unexciting.

Now, yes, risotto does need you to stir and add stock almost continuously, but I’m often on my feet doing 10 things at once around the kids anyway so stopping for a quick stir every few minutes really isn’t that daunting to me, and the result is certainly worth it. It usually takes me about half an hour or less from start to finish.

Tomato risotto

INGREDIENTS

80-90g arborio (risotto) rice per person – I normally make 200g and that’s enough for me and 2 kids.
1 onion
1lt of sock
a tin of chopped tomatoes, or small bottle of passata
zest of one orange
2 tbsp pesto
olive oil/butter
seasoning

METHOD

Chop up the onion really finely and cook on a very low heat in a large pan with some olive oil (or butter) until they soften – not brown or burn! Easy does it. Put the stock in a separate saucepan on a low heat to keep it warm, if you use cold stock it will stop the rice from cooking properly.

Once the onions are soft, pour in the rice and let it toast for a couple of minutes, then add the tomatoes and a ladle of stock, stir well and cover. Keep on stirring it every few minutes and add stock ladle by ladle when needed, waiting until it’s completely absorbed until you add more. That’s it!

Season (though you may not need to as it’s been cooked with stock), then serve with a nice sprinkle of orange zest on top and a little pesto in the middle, and add some parmesan too if you like it. Done! It’s a great hit around here and so good for when I have no fresh ingredients in.

Tomato risotto

 

Did  you try it? Was it good? Was it horrible? Let me know! Any feedback is helpful 🙂

 

No refined sugar flapjacks

A long overdue post! I’m sure I did say I’m terrible at sticking to things, but nevermind, here I am again.

I have  little recipe for some yummy and healthy flapjacks today, I made them modifying a version of no added sugar flapjacks I’ve found on another blog and thought I’d share it! I had been looking for a while for the perfect recipe as my kids love the Goodies oat bars but they can be expensive to buy regularly and anyway I prefer to have homemade food, I think it’s good for them too to not get too used to eating things that come in fancy packaging.

Making flapjacks    Making flapjacks

My daughter loves giving a hand to make them and we all love eating them, in fact they rarely last more than a day in this house.

Without further ado, here’s how to make them!

INGREDIENTS
150g stoned dates, chopped
5 tbsp apple juice or fresh orange juice
150g unsalted butter (I may try them with coconut oil to make them vegan soon)
100g sultanas
200g porridge oats
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice

 

METHOD
Preheat the oven to 170C (fan) slightly higher for non fan assisted.

Put the apple juice and the dates in a blender and blend, it will become a bit of a paste and may not be fully blended but that’s ok! Meanwhile, gently melt the butter in a saucepan on a low heat.

Chocolate!

Put the oats and spices in a large bowl, then add the sultanas, apple and dates mix and melted butter and mix well. Turn the mix into a lined deep square or rectangular baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes or until browned on top.  Cut into 16 squares and leave until fully cooled in the dish (they break apart otherwise, as you can see from my picture!).

I also like to make them a little naughty every now and then and add a little bit of dark chocolate, chopped in little chips. I use about 1/3 of a bar and that seems enough for us 🙂

Flapjacks

 

Sorry about the poor picture, I will try to take better ones next time! They were a great snack to pack up and take with us at the kids’ first time playing bowling.

Playing bowling

Vegan millet cakes

Recipe time! I’ve been slacking in the cooking department over the past week or so. Don’t get me wrong, I still cook, but nothing exciting or worth blogging about, I’ve just been quite lazy and uninspired. Hopefully I’m back on track now!

MilletI’ve been wanting to make millet cakes for as long as I can remember. My mum used to make them when I was little and I really loved them, I keep on asking her for the recipe but always forget to write it down. The other issue is that I’m trying to only add vegan recipes to my repertoire as I’m trying to cut down on the animal produce I consume (for ethical as well as health issues). My mum’s recipe called for an egg as a binding ingredient but after reading it seemed that adding more water when cooking the millet would make it creamier and stickier, so I gave it a go. It worked!

 

Ingredients (makes around 12 cakes):

– 1 cup uncooked millet
– 2 carrots
– 1 onion
– 1 courgette
– olive or coconut oil
– spices (I used mild chili powder, cumin and turmeric)

First of all, cook the millet. Let it toast for a few minutes in a dry pan (toast, not burn, keep an eye on it!) then add 2 1/2 cups of water to the pan, bring to the boil, cover and let it simmer on a medium heat, occasionally stirring to avoid it sticking to the pan.

Meanwhile, finely chop the vegetables, I went for a shortcut and whizzed them in the blender. Cook in a pan with a little oil until they’ve softened up, the time will depend a lot on how big your pieces are.

When both the millet and veggies are cooked let them cool a little then combine together well, add salt and spices if you wish then shape into cakes – it helps if you wet your hands to stop the mixture from sticking to them.

Place under the grill and cook until crispy, or until they look appealing to you! They taste great both hot and cold, and go amazingly well with some Worcestershire sauce. I loved these, I think they’d be great to make when I have time during the day and just pop in the oven when it’s time to eat. I wonder if they freeze well, I will try that and report back! Enjoy 🙂

Vegan millet cakes, served with broccoli and leftover risotto

On a separate note, you can tell when daddy comes to the playground. Happy Sunday!

Shark attack!

 

Raw breakfast banana choco tarts

Happy Sunday everyone. Mine has been rather sluggish so far, both my little ones were very restless last night so I had little sleep and my little guy seems still rather grumpy this morning, deciding that he wants to be glued to me at all times.

Why do I tell you all this? Apart from the fact that I love having a good old moan, I wanted a bit of a pick me up for breakfast so I combined the  raw chocolate brownies and this breakfast banana pie  from Raw on $10 or less (such a great blog, it’s great to show that eating raw needn’t be prohibitively expensive!) and ended up with these breakfast banana choco tarts.

Ingredients for 2 tarts:

– 1/2 cup nuts (I particularly like a mix of pecans and cashews)
– 1/2 cup dates
– 1tbsp shredded coconut
– 1tbsp honey
– 1tbsp cocoa
– 1 banana

Put all the ingredients apart from the banana in a blender and whizz together, put the mix in a small tart pan and press down, creating the raised edges with your fingers. Put in the fridge to set for 10/15 minutes (or enough to wash the blender, make the filling, wash it again and get a plate ready!).

Next blend the banana, saving a few slices as topping if you wish. If your bananas are small you might need 2. Put the filling in the base, top with bananas (or anything else you wish) and sprinkle some cinnamon or cocoa on top and voila’, breakfast is served!

Raw banana choco tartsRaw banana choco tarts

Spelt bread and raw strawberry jam

This week I’ve been thinking a lot about my diet and how far I’ve come in the past few months. I changed the way I eat a lot but more for health purposes, of course I was hoping that eating better would also mean losing a bit of weight but I didn’t really expect to.

The biggest change was that I cut out all processed/refine sugar, as I’ve already mentioned, and that has benefited me in many ways. First of all, I feel more in control of what I eat, both in terms of portion sizes and cravings, my mood are better and I have more energy. I’ve also almost entirely cut out meat, this wasn’t intentional but it just happened, though I still tend to eat fish once or twice a week and dairy and eggs fairly often. I made a conscious effort to substitute all these things with vegetables, so I’m eating a bit less grains (pasta, bread, rice etc) too.

I’ve been toying with the idea of trying to be gluten free for a couple of weeks or so to see if I could notice any difference and yesterday, while at a health food store, I had a spur of the moment decision to buy some spelt flour and have a go at making spelt bread. One tiny little detail: spelt isn’t gluten free (I only realised this many hours after buying it).

Nevermind! I shall blame this on the extended sleep deprivation and all that. I gave it a go anyway and used the recipe that was on the packet. It was quite quick and fairly mess free and didn’t need as much work as wheat bread; unfortunately I don’t own a bread tin yet (must get one!) so the poor thing went all flat instead of rising in a lovely loaf shape, but let me tell you, it’s actually rather nice! It will be quite amazing with some soup once the weather goes colder again.

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I wanted something to put on it and couldn’t quite think of something that was a bit special, just like the bread itself, until I remembered about this easy recipe for raw strawberry chia jam.

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It’s all pretty straight forward: mix 3 tablespoons of chia seeds, 3 tablespoons of honey (or agave nectar or maple syrup) and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice (one large lemon should be enough) together in a little bowl – as you can see in the photo, it’s that odd brownish mess!

Mash the strawberries – 1lb according to the recipe, I used a 400g pack – with a fork or pulse in the food processor, combine with the chia seeds mixture and pour in a container (you may want to use one that is big enough…) then simply put in the fridge and leave it to set for at least half an hour. Done!

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You can now enjoy your lovely super healthy jam on your not-gluten-free spelt bread 😉

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I’m fighting with all my might not to go and eat the rest of the bread and jam right now. Must…. resist…. temptation…..

A different Sunday dinner

Today I was feeling a little adventurous, I really wanted something nice but different from the usual things (pasta mostly!) I end up cooking.

The solution, as always, came from Pinterest (if you’re not on it yet, you really ought to, though it can be quite addictive and time consuming!). I have a few recipes pinned on my food board that I really like but rarely make, or have never tried, so it’s always a nice source of inspiration.

Tonight I ended up making a very odd combination of jacket potatoes with cheese and a lentil bolognese sauce (low fat, healthy and cheap, what else could a girl want?), with a side of baked courgette chips (purely so that I didn’t have to put the oven on just for the potatoes, it feels like a bit of a waste) and a superhealthy raw carrot cake, from the same lovely lady who introduced me to the wonderful world of raw chocolate brownies.

Unfortunately, as it was quite a hands-on dinner to make and the children were keeping me on my toes (you try to stop a fight while your fingers are coated in a messy eggy breadcrumb mixture!) I didn’t get round to taking any pictures of the work in progress, but just the finished result. The cake looks much better than in the photo and I’m secretly quite pleased that my daughter wasn’t too keen on it – more for me tomorrow! And I’m also very happy that for once everything went according to plan, often when I try out new recipes or ones I’m not familiar with I end up doing something wrong and mess it up.

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Have you made any adventurous meal lately? How did it turn out? Or do you prefer to stick to a good old roast on a Sunday, be it homemade or eaten out?

Raw chocolate brownies – you MUST try these!

I mentioned in a previous post that I’m not trying to completely avoid any added refined sugar – and by that I mean sugar that has been extracted or processed and that isn’t in its natural form anymore.

I’ve been sugar-free for almost 3 months now and I feel much better for it, my moods have improved, I have far more energy and the weight has been slowly but surely coming off, and trust me when I say that I’m in no way controlling my portions, I always end up finishing my daughter’s dinners and putting lashings of oil or butter on anything! We’re a fat friendly house and I most certainly don’t count calories.

Ingredients readyBut I didn’t know all this when I first started, all I knew was that I really, really liked chocolate and I wasn’t quite ready to face a chocolate-free life. And this is when I found The Rawtarian’s website and so so glad I did. She has many raw vegan recipes, including an amazing raw cheesecake recipe, raw chocolate truffles for when I’m in need of a quick fix and, above, the awesome raw chocolate brownies. I swear, every single person who’s tried them has loved them and I’ve been asked for the recipe many times, so if you’re trying to go sugar-free or just have a healthier alternative to regular brownies, you should really add these to your to-do list.

The recipe is as easy as it gets:
– one cup of pecans (I added some cashews too)
– one cup of dates
– 5 tablespoons of raw cacao (I use regular cocoa powder)
– 4 tablespoons of dessicated coconut
– 2 tablespoons of honey
– pinch of sea salt

I throw it all in the blender at once though Laura-Jane @ the Rawtarian suggests blending the pecans first, then the dates, then adding the rest of the ingredients. Blend until it’s fluffy, but don’t overblend it or the natural oils will separate, I talk from experience!

All in the blender  IMGP1873

Press down into a pan (she says with clean hands, which makes me giggle – of course you’d use clean hands! And if you didn’t you’re probably the kind of person who doesn’t really care anyway) and put in the fridge for a few hours to set, unless you’re greedy and impatient like us and end up eating it almost immediately. Then cut into squares just like you would with regular brownies and stuff your face serve.

Raw chocolate brownies

I really recommend topping them with her raw chocolate icing too, it’s delicious and you wonder how they only have healthy ingredients, they taste too naughty to be so good. I only make it on special occasions, purely because my toddler is crazy about these and the icing can get quite messy in small clumsy hands.