Mango and Spinach Smoothie

19 Jun

Breakfast Smoothie

I have been trying to eat different kinds of breakfasts lately as I was getting bored with porridge and fruit.  As I started looking into healthier, yet still filling, alternatives, I was led down the smoothie route.

This one is a nice way to start off as it is mild and does not contain anything very scary…I guess spinach might be scary for some, especially when combined with the word breakfast, but give it a go. For those of you with children, who do not eat a lot of fruit or veg, this is a sure winner. The colour might put them off – healthy green – however the taste will have them asking for more. Let them try a teaspoon and see what happens…

As for health, spinach is one of the greatest leafy greens (and can be substituted for kale in this recipe if you prefer). It belongs to the Chenopodiaceae family (also known as goosefoot), a family of nutritional powerhouses including beets, chard and quinoa. It shares a similar taste profile with these two other vegetables; the bitterness of beet greens and the slightly salty flavour of chard. Spinach is rich in iron which, as you probably know, plays a central role in the function of red blood cells which help in transporting oxygen around the body, in energy production and DNA synthesis. Spinach is also an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C and folic acid as well as being a good source of manganese, magnesium, iron and vitamin B2. Vitamin K is important for maintaining bone health and it is difficult to find vegetables richer in vitamin K than spinach. Have a read here for more details (BBC Good Food). A great food to fill up on for anyone but especially if you are pregnant or breast feeding.

Mango is another super healthy element to this breakfast. It improves digestion, lowers cholesterol, it is rich in iron, is said to improve concentration and memory and last, but certainly not least, Vitamin E, which helps to regulate sex hormones and boosts sex drive, is abundantly present in mangoes… Read more here (Health Mango).

So feed it to your children before exams or simply in the mornings to help them concentrate, feed them to yourself to improve digestion and maybe slip your partner some….:-)

Mango and Spinach Smoothie

1 banana (if very ripe it will make smoothie sweeter)

1 apple

2 handfuls of fresh spinach (or kale)

1 large handful of frozen mango (if you buy fresh, then cut into wedges and freeze)

100ml of cold water (if smoothie seems too thick simply add a bit more)

  • Slice the banana and apple and put them in a tall blender
  • Add mango, spinach and water
  • Blend for a good 2-3 minutes to ensure a smooth drink
  • Pour into a nice glass…makes it look tastier!
  • Enjoy!

(You can add other fruit – I threw in a few strawberries after I had taken the first picture…hence the small red dots in the glass)

Fruit DSC_0011 (3)Yum

 

Quinoa and vegetable stuffed aubergines

17 Jun

Quinoa and vegetable aubergine

 

It’s been a while, a long while in fact, and I have missed my blog, my food photography and being inspired by fresh ingredients. A walk to the local farmers market today, however, hit the spot! Luckily I was hungry and decided I would buy my lunch from the fresh vegetable stall….

Aubergine. I was first introduced to this fruit (yes, fruit!) by my Sicilian husband. It is a staple food there but not so common in Denmark where I am from. I have grown to absolutely love it and eat it a few times a week now. It is very versatile and can be used in lasagne, baked with tomato sauce and mozzarella to make a “parmigiana”, simply grilled and served with meat or baked and made into dips. Stunning.

Although it’s technically a fruit (a berry, to be exact), the aubergine is used as a vegetable. It’s native to South-East Asia, but is grown all over the world, and there are many different varieties, including the bulbous, glossy, deep purple zepplin-like types common to Mediterranean cuisine; the small, tubular Asian types; the small, plump and ivory examples (hence ‘eggplant’, its name in the United States and Australia); or the scarcely bigger than a pea varieties grown in Thailand (BBC Good Food).

In terms of health, look no further! Aubergines are an excellent source of dietary fibre. They are also a good source of vitamins B1, B6 and potassium. In addition they are high in the minerals copper, magnesium and manganese. Aubergines are furthermore high in fibre and low in fat and therefore recommended for those managing type 2 diabetes or managing weight concerns. There is a great article to read on all the health benefits here (BBC Good Food).

Quinoa is magic too (click on link to read more)….and coconut oil is amazing! I have replaced all my cooking oils with it and even have it in my coffee!! Read why here). Finally kale (click to read) – yum!! This recipe is a winner both in taste and health!

So let’s get to the recipe shall we? I tell you – it is the best lunch I have had in a long time and was relatively quick to make.

Quinoa and vegetable stuffed Aubergine (serves 2)

1 tsp raw coconut oil

1 medium-sized onion – chopped in small pieces

1 large aubergine (read link above for good tips on buying quality ones)

A little olive oil (to drizzle over aubergine)

3 closed cup mushrooms – sliced

2 cloves of garlic – chopped thinly

2 large handfuls of kale

5 cherry tomatoes – sliced in half

A splash of water

Good pinch of sea salt

1/2 a cup of quinoa – boiled

1/3 of a pack of feta cheese

    • Heat oven to 200C.
    • Slice the aubergine in half lengthways. I did not leave the stem intact but you can do. It makes it prettier if you are serving for guests. Using a small knife, cut a border inside each aubergine half. Using a spoon, scoop out the aubergine flesh. You will be left with two shells – brush these with a little olive and place in a baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes to soften them, then remove from oven.
    • Place a pot over medium heat and add the coconut oil.
    • Finely chop the onions and garlic, as well as the aubergine flesh, and add it to the melted coconut oil. Let it cook and soften a little – 4-5 minutes time – then add a splash of water (this will essentially steam the vegetables rather than overly fry them).
    • Tip in the sliced mushroom, tomatoes and raw kale and let it all simmer under a lid.
    • In a separate pot add some water and the quinoa and bring to boil. Let it simmer for 15 minutes before draining using a sieve. Once drained, add the cooked quinoa to the vegetables and season with the sea salt.
    • Break the feta cheese into pieces and mix into the vegetable/quinoa pot. Give it a good stir.
    • Pile the vegetable and quinoa stuffing into the shells and re-heat for 5-10 minutes. If you are a real cheese lover you can sprinkle some more feta or mozzarella on top and let it melt.
    • Serve as it is or with a green salad and a piece of grilled meat or fish.
    • ENJOY!

Stuffed AubergineStuffed Aubergine

 

The scent of Christmas – Mulled Wine

3 Dec

That time of year again! Hope you are enjoying the first days of Christmas.

I will be making this at the weekend…

Really enjoy the process and the scent that it leaves in the house. For children, if you boil the red wine rather than keep it on really low heat, you will eradicate the alcohol. This drink can therefore be served to them aswell…(or just heat some plain ribena – that is gorgeous warm!) :-)

Click on the link below to be taken to the recipe.

The scent of Christmas – Mulled Wine.

Bloody Fingers, Bats and Teeth….

13 Oct

Fingers

 

Halloween is approaching once again. It was not until I had children that I really started enjoying this celebration – and really – I only enjoy it because I get to cook funny looking things!

Last year I wrote a bit about the history of Halloween as well as posting quite a few recipes; a refresher below:

……I have learned that Halloween has ancient origins linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain. The name of the festival is derived from Old Irish which roughly translates to “summer’s end”. It served to celebrate the end of a good season of harvest of apples, pumpkins, spices and cider as well as a setting for supernatural encounters. The original Celtic holiday occurred on November 1, not October 31, and was one of the most important holidays for Celtic people, who believed that the spirits of those who had died over the course of the year would mingle with the living before traveling on to the afterlife. Festivals and celebrations were meant to aid the good souls on their way, and keep bad spirits from doing harm to the living.

Since that time, however, the holiday has grown and changed – fuelled largely by horror films such as Frankenstein and Dracula.

The carving of pumpkins, which is my absolute favourite part of Halloween, stems from Scotland and Ireland where they used to carve turnips as a symbol of remembering souls held in punishment. Immigrants to North America later discovered, and used, the pumpkin which was much larger and therefore easier to carve. Today it is used to open your home to little “trick or treaters” – if you leave a lit pumpkin on your front step they know they are welcome!

Chocolate Spiders

Sweet Pumpkin Loaf

Bat biscuits

Ghost Cupcakes

This year we have made a few different bits – the favourite ones (according to the children) were Bats, Fingers and Teeth! The recipes will follow below!

I hope you have a smashing Halloween and Half Term holiday and enjoy the time with your little ones.

Bloody Fingers (adapted from Sainsbury’s Magazine)

This recipe will make 24 fingers

375g short crust pastry

Tomato puree – about 1 tbsp

24 blanched almonds

1 beaten egg or some cream

Grated parmesan – 1 tbsp full will do

  • Pre-heat your oven to 190C
  • Cut the short crust pastry into three rectangles; then cut each rectangle into eight fingers
  • Roll each pastry piece into the shape of a finger – do not fold the dough or roll it out as this will create “splitting” fingers! I.e. the fingers will open up when cooking.
  • Round the finger tips and use a sharp knife to score gentle lines across the middle for knuckles
  • Press your thumb into the top of each finger to make an indentation for the fingernails
  • Dot the tomato puree onto each indentation and press and almond onto each
  • Place all the fingers on a lined baking sheet
  • Brush with either beaten egg or cream
  • Sprinkle parmesan on top
  • Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes – or until golden
  • Let them cool and enjoy!
  • They are great served with hummus, guacamole, pesto or tomato salsa

Marshmallow Bats

Simple and cute – makes 12 (ish)!

250g plain chocolate

12 marshmallows

Baking sheet and pencil

  • Melt 250g of dark chocolate (or milk chocolate if you prefer) in a bowl over simmering water. Do not let the chocolate overheat or it will go crumbly in texture
  • On a baking parchment sheet, draw the bat wings with a pencil (Google image them and print off a picture to trace if you are not the creative type) ensuring you link the wings with a circle (big enough for a marshmallow
  • Ensure the sheet is placed on a moveable surface as the bats will need to go in the fridge once made
  • Turn over the baking parchment – you should see the trace
  • Once the chocolate has melted fully remove it from the heat and let it cool down – this will probably take 10-15 minutes
  • Using a spoon (or piping bag if you prefer) fill the wings and centre “blob” on the parchment with chocolate. make sure you make a relatively thick coating to ensure the bat wings do not break when you need to remove them later
  • Dip your marshmallows in the chocolate and place one marshmallow, as the bat’s body, on the centre blob of every wing set
  • Continue until you have finished the chocolate and marshmallows
  • Place the bats in the fridge for at least 30 minutes
  • Once completely dry, decorate the face with icing pens and sprinkles (for eyes)

Bat

Wobbly Teeth – surprisingly tasty (Sainsbury’s magazine)

Apples

Thick honey (or toffee sauce)

Mini marshmallows

  • Slice your apples into wedges – making the bottom wedges very flat to allow them to sit easily on a platter or plate
  • Put some thick honey (or toffee sauce) on each wedge
  • Place the mini marshmallows on the flat wedge, into the honey, and lay an apple wedge on top
  • Enjoy!

Teeth

 

Autumn and I return – Blackberry and Apple Loaf

15 Sep

Blackberries

Cannot believe I have not posted since the Spring. Somehow lost my focus, but an amazing holiday in Denmark and Norway has completely inspired me to cook again.

Why, you may wonder?

The list is long however one word, maybe two…or three, sums up the impressions our summer holiday left with me.

Natural – Wholesome – Simple

Bread is not just bread; it is seeded, it is rye, it is wholemeal, it has nuts in it, berries – dark chocolate. Wow! That is one recipe that will be shared eventually!

The environment is not just used; it is adored, appreciated, cherished, looked after. Every turn takes your breath away. Every turn inspires dreaming and laughter. Maybe some of the dreams created whilst there will be shared eventually!

People are not just strangers that pass you by; they are strong, sturdy, friendly, helpful and kind souls who make a proper effort to make your day better than it already was. True selflessness and kindness. Inspiring.

Walks are not just walks; they are rejuvenating, awe-inspiring, berry picking, soul enlightening miracles. And from the walks come fruit – berries – and from those berries come wonderful recipes. One of which I will share with you now. :-)

Picking

We had friends over a few weekends ago and went for an amazing walk through fields of clover, parks, over little bridges and close by lakes. All along the way were rows and rows of blackberry bramble; bursting with ripe berries. I made a mental note and promised the children to return with bags and bowls…

For those that have followed this blog for a while, and cooked my recipes, you will know that I always try to incorporate healthy aspects into every meal (almost anyway!).  This gorgeous blackberry and apple loaf is no different. Very easy, very quick – moist – full of flavour, rye and fruit. A great lunch box or after school treat or a lovely Sunday breakfast or tea time surprise for the family.

What goodness will it give you?

  1. Exercise, a smile on your face, your children out of the house and maybe muddy shoes – picking the berries of course!
  2. Vitamin A & C, dietary fibre, heart-healthy fats, potassium and calcium – blackberries are an amazing addition to your diet. They are one of the berries women are advised to eat if they would like a flatter stomach (or so I have heard…)!
  3. Potentially cancer reducing – apple peel has quercetin in it – some studies have shown this to be a cancer reducing food.
  4. Slow releasing energy – rye! Read more here: benefits of rye

No excuses – get your wellingtons on, get into the outdoors, and pick those blackberries before they disappear.

Blackberry and Apple Loaf

150g rye flour

100g plain flour

175g butter (can be substituted for vegetable oil or apple sauce)

100g dark brown unrefined cane sugar

5 tbsp. Demerara sugar

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. baking powder

2 eggs

Zest of an orange

1 green apple grated (NOT peeled)

225g blackberries

  • Pre heat your oven to 180C
  • Grease a loaf tin using either butter or vegetable oil (approximately 1.5L)
  • Place the two flour types, butter (or oil/applesauce) and two sugar types in a mixing bowl
  • Combine with your fingers until the mixture resembles bread crumbs
  • Take 5 table spoons of this mixture and place it in a separate bowl – you will use this as topping at the end
  • Add the cinnamon to the topping mixture
  • Add the baking powder to the flour mixture
  • In a separate bowl combine eggs, the zest of orange and the grated apple
  • Pour the fruit mixture into the flour mixture and combine with a fork – do not over-mix (this will make a harder textured cake)
  • Gently fold the blackberries into the dough, again making sure not to over-mix
  • Spoon the dough into the loaf tin, sprinkle with the topping and place in the warm oven for approximately 1 hour (or slightly longer depending on your oven/tin etc. Please insert a skewer into the loaf after an hour to check that the dough is fully baked). If the cake starts looking a little dark for your liking simply place some tin foil over the top of it and leave to bake until it has finished.
  • Let it cool in the tin on a wire rack for a good 30 minutes before removing.
  • Serve as is or with crème fraiche/ice cream/custard….
  • (the little jar in the pictures below contains blackberry and ginger compote – great with cheese! That recipe will have to follow)

(for more information on the healthy benefits of almost anything: http://health.learninginfo.org/)

ApplesBlackberry and Apple LoafFinished LoafAs a gift?

Thai Impressions

14 Mar

DSC_0508Thailand was never a place I wanted to visit. I yearn for some destinations, dream of them, plan holidays in future years but Thailand has never made that list. Not sure why.

Then, my mother in law bought a house there, and suddenly it was the next destination. That was four years ago and we have just been back for our second holiday. How do I feel about the country now? I could live there, permanently, without giving it a second thought! Why? Well, the list is long but topping it….it has to be….it has to be:

  • The Food. It has to be the food that tops the list! The colours, the flavours, the philosophy under which meals are prepared, the scents that tickle your nostrils and massage your palette. Amazing. If you dare to let go and try things that look strange; things that come out of odd leaves, containers and pots then you are in for a treat.
  • The People. Respectful, not pushy, at peace, not stressed, happy, kind, accommodating. Always a smile, always ready to help. We have a lot to learn in the west
  • The Weather. Average 30 degrees C in February. Nice. No further comment.
  • The Activities. Diving, kite boarding, snorkelling, go-karting, fishing, cooking classes, animal shows, morning market, night markets, fish markets, walk-in streets, trekking to tops of water falls and skinny dipping in them, riding elephants…. We did all of these and could easily have done more.

We took a few hours worth of cooking lessons from a fabulous Thai lady who ran a much acclaimed Thai Restaurant in Australia for 20 years. Short, stout, strict, and bossy as anything, but passionate about ingredients. About when to stir and when to leave, about pestle and mortar, about using every little bit of the raw materials – out of respect for both nature and the client who is to eat the dish. From the lesson came three dishes and I will share them on the blog. Mouth-watering yet so simple and quick to cook!

Before I start recipe writing I want to share my favourites pictures from our trip. Hopefully they will draw you in and let you feel just a little of the magic that is Thailand. It truly is a place where your soul can rest and re-fresh; when you have time to think and focus; a place where stress does not seem to exist and most importantly, to a food lover like I am, a place where the food you find at little road stands is simply divine and different. Where the best local restaurants are nothing more than a wok on fire and you walk through the chef’s living room to be seated. Completely different; completely fabulous!

Enjoy the gallery….and share your experiences! Have you been to Thailand? What was your best bit?

The Ultimate American Pancakes

12 Feb

pancake

Shrove Tuesday has come around again – and before we hit the recipe here is a small reminder as to what Shrove Tuesday actually is about.

The name Shrove comes from the old word “shrive” which means to confess. On Shrove Tuesday, in the Middle Ages, people used to confess their sins so that they were forgiven before the season of Lent began. Lent, for many, is a time of abstinence, of giving things up, and being the last day before the period of Lent, Shrove Tuesday is a day of celebration (indulging!) as well as penitence.

Shrove Tuesday is also known as Pancake Day, and throughout the United Kingdom the day used to be (and still is) associated with pancakes because they were a way to use up rich foodstuffs such as eggs, milk, and sugar that traditionally aren’t allowed during Lent. (read more on Wikipedia)

I have spent many Sunday mornings perfecting my American pancake recipe. As a family we have devoured thin, thick, soggy, crunchy, hard, chewy…all types….and finally we have reached the pinnacle of success! This recipe is divine. I am almost tempted to keep it to myself – it is that good – but as sharing is caring here goes! Recipe for the ultimate american pancakes – including reasons why some of the ingredients are used! Enjoy.

Please have a look at other great Pancake Day recipes too….

- Spinach layered pancakes

- Original crepes

- Chocolate pancake layered cake

Why use….?

  • Why a combination of cornflour and regular flour? It makes for a more delicate cake because cornflour does not have the two amino acids that wheat flour contains (glutenin and gliadin which combine to make gluten) – not really necessary for cakes. By using cornflour you therefore decrease the gluten content of a cake making it lighter.
  • Why vinegar and baking soda? I tried this in some cupcakes and the result was amazing. They turned out to be the softest cup cakes I have ever had. I therefore decided to try to add it to the pancakes..and yes…it works. Vinegar (acetic acid) + baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)= CO2 (carbon dioxide gas). This gas leavens the cake/causes it to rise. Think of your classroom volcano experiment: mix soda and vinegar and you get a big old foamy mess. Add that foamy mess to cake batter and you get a lighter, fluffier cake.
  • Why yogurt? When used in cakes it provides moistness..simple as that. If you have never tried, do! It retains that lovely moist feel and taste for days.

Ultimate American Pancakes

Drizzle of vegetable oil (equivalent of 2 tbsp)

115g plain flour

115g corn flour

pinch of salt

2 tbsp caster sugar

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/2 tsp white wine vinegar (trust me!)

1 egg

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

100ml natural full fat yogurt

300ml milk

  • I always put my oven on 50C to keep the pancakes warm – that way we all eat together as a family which is much nicer than throwing them over my shoulder to a pack of wolves who devour them and leave the room!
  • Sieve the flour and cornflour into a bowl and add the salt, sugar and baking powder to it
  • Put the egg, milk and yogurt into a different bowl and whisk to combine
  • Place the bicarbonate of soda on a tablespoon and add the vinegar to it – it will bubble up (great for volcano experiments with the children…that’s for another blog!)
  • Add this wet mixture to the egg, yogurt and milk bowl – stir to combine
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix VERY briefly until just combined – it will seem like there are lumps of flour in the mixture – do not worry about those. Do not over mix…. 
  • Drizzle the oil into the mixture (doing this reduces the need for oil/grease on the pan)
  • Put a frying pan over medium heat and brush it with a tiny bit of vegetable oil
  • Using a large spoon or small glass, place small dollops of batter onto the pan and cook until they begin to bubble on the top. Flip them over and cook the other side until golden
  • Put into the oven to keep warm while you cook the rest of the pancakes
  • Serve warm with lots of freshly chopped fruit, syrup, icing sugar, nutella, lemon, jam….so much choice!
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