Zucchini Bake – A Low carb pasta bake with no pasta!

A low carb pasta bake with no pasta? How is that possible?

Simple, really, replace the pasta with zucchini rounds – and if you add the zucchini at the last minute it holds its shape and texture. No soggy zucchini – slightly al dente /ælˈdɛnteɪ – cooked to be firm to the bite.

I have been on a weight loss journey for the past 6 months and this has made me look closely at how I cook and what I am cooking (and eating). Some drastic changes to the family menus have been a result, including cutting out most carbohydrates!

Now, before you run for the hills – let me reassure you, it is very possible to enjoy a satisfying meal without pasta, or potatoes…I promise.

After nearly 6-months I have lost 27 kilos so far and with a goal of 40 kilos to lose, have past the halfway point. It would be wrong to say it has been very easy, because it has not been a breeze. However, it has not been that bad either!

I had a cervical spine injury last year which landed me in the public hospital system for 8 long days and nights. As part of my rehabilitation I had physio, acupuncture and cupping (I’ll tell you more about that another day) – I bought a treadmill and took up walking daily. I watched what I ate, but honestly never lost more than a couple of kilos.

A friend at work encouraged me to look at a low carb diet – a Ketogenic diet. And as they say, the rest is history as they say.

I am in the process of updating my family favourite recipes to be more low carb and therefore Keto-friendly. In the meantime why don’t you take a look at this Pasta Bake with no Pasta! It has just 7.3g net carbs per serve, is family-friendly and jolly tasty.

Ingredients: Serves 6

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Pinch chilli flakes
  • 450g good quality mince beef
  • 2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 large zucchini, sliced
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups grated Mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Cooking directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C fan bake – heat oil and add onion cooking until the onion is soft. Stir in garlic and chili flakes and cook for one minute. Add mince and season with salt & pepper to taste. Cook for approximately 5 minutes.
  2. Add tomato paste & oregano. Cook for 2 minutes and then add tomatoes bringing sauce to a simmer. Reduce heat and cook until liquid is slightly reduced – 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in zucchini and basil. Season again with salt & pepper.
  3. In a large baking dish, place half of the mix in an even layer. Then add half of the spinach, and dollop half of the ricotta cheese over the top. Add 1/2 of the mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses next. Repeat the layers.
  4. Bake until the cheeses are bubbling – melted and delicious! 25 minutes will do the trick.

Needless to say there will be leftovers if you are a small family of two like us! However this recipe does make enough for 6 hungry mouths making it a great family dish.

We’re back for seconds tonight with a side of roasted pumpkin and perhaps some steamed broccoli.

Happy dieting xx

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Thai Chicken Flatbread Pizza

Here’s a variation of pizza that is great for the grown-ups on a Friday night, featuring peanut sauce, broccoli, and sweet mango.

I know, what a combination!

You will have to trust me with this one – it really is good 🙂

Flatbreads are a regular on the shopping list at my place; you can use them so many ways, from wraps with pulled pork and slaw, to bases for bacon and egg pies! Super nice for a lunch sandwich instead of a bread which gets boring quickly – specially for the kids!

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This is as authentic a peanut sauce as you can make, as it starts with real peanuts not peanut butter! It is super easy, and quick to make.

You can use this for a dip for vegetables, or as a sauce for chicken or beef satay. Or use it as a marinade for grilled chicken or tofu.

For the Peanut Sauce:

  • 1 cup fresh dry-roasted peanuts, unsalted
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 c loves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dark soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar, to taste
  • 2-2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon tamarind paste, or 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or 1 teaspoon chilli sauce
  • 1/3 cup coconut milk

Place all of the ingredients into  blender or food processor, and blend until sauce is smooth. If you prefer a runnier peanut sauce, add a little more water or coconut milk.

Do a taste-test, adding more fish sauce if not salty enough, or  more cayenne if not spicy enough for you. If too salty, add a squeeze of fresh lime juice. If you would prefer it sweeter, add a little more sugar.

**this sauce tends to thicken as it sits – just a little water or coconut milk to thin it out, as needed. It stores well, in the fridge for up to 2 weeks; pop it in the freezer after this time period.

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Pizza Ingredients:

  • 2 flatbreads, or pitas
  • 200-250 grams chicken breasts
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 150gram mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup small broccoli florets, chopped
  • 1 small red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1 mango, chopped – if it is out of season, a can of mango will do the trick too 🙂
  • peanuts, chopped to serve
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped to serve

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Heat oil in a small pan, and add chicken and 2 tablespoons of peanut sauce, salt and pepper to sauté until the chicken is cooked through. Set aside and allow to cool.

Spread two tablespoons of the peanut sauce on each flatbread or pita, then top with half of the chicken, cheese and broccoli and red onions.

Bake pizza for 8-9 minutes or until the cheese is melted and golden

Top with chopped mango, peanuts and parsley.

Serve with extra peanut sauce so you can dip the crust!

Happy Friday Pizza Nights xx

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Mac ‘N Cheese

Mac ‘N Cheese

If you mention you had Mac ‘n’ cheese for dinner amongst my work colleagues there would be gasps of horror! “oh my goodness, so much cheese”,” so many carbs”….”I just could not indulge like that”.  Any of those comments sound familiar?

So if you want to avoid those types of comments, just don’t mention it, or call it something else!

It was my birthday last month, and as we were not able to eat out, I figured I could treat myself to this family favourite – and somewhat classic dish!

Ingredients:

  • 250grams macaroni
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 500ml milk
  • 3 cups Tasty or Colby cheese, grated
  • 4 slices streaky bacon, chopped roughly
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs, Japanese breadcrumbs

Bring a large pot to the boil with a dash of salt, and add dry pasta. Cook until al dente – or cooked ‘firm to the bite’. Drain and add a little olive oil to the cooked pasta to ensure it does not stick to each other.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat then add the flour and cook for three minutes. Add the milk, stirring constantly until thick and smooth – I use a whisk for this. Add two cups of grated cheese, and your seasoning. Remove from the heat, and set to the side.

Add a little cooking oil and over a medium heat sauté the bacon and onions for 10 minutes or until they’re starting to colour. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook for two more minutes.

At this stage, I combine the bacon and onion mix with the cheese sauce in the pot with the cooked pasta. Mix it well.

Transfer to an oven-proof dish. Top with remaining cheese and breadcrumbs and bake for 15 minutes – or until the cheese and breadcrumbs are golden.

Serves 4

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You can whip up a big dish of Mac ‘N Cheese very economically, which is also a great benefit for those of you with a tribe of teenagers to feed. A packet of dry pasta is less than $2, and this will go a long distance. Leave out the bacon, and add extra vegetables – you can chop up a broccoli, or grate a carrot and zucchini into this, and get away with it!

Don’t wait for a special occasion to treat yourself and the family to a delicious Mac ‘N Cheese dinner; add it to a family menu for a quick and easy week night meal the teenagers will devour in a flash. One word of warning however; make plenty as they will be back for seconds!

Happy teen – happy mum xx

Kai Si Ming – an old family dish!

Kai Si Ming – an old family dish!

Kai Si Ming is an Asian-inspired one-pan mince and rice dinner and something that I have not had since a kid (and that is some years ago now!)

I was reminded of this old family dish when I saw that Maggi – who are an international brand of seasonings, instant soups and noodles –   have made a packet meal of it.

I thought ‘fancy that!’ –  you don’t need to buy the packet mix because you will have the ingredients in your pantry, and best of all, you can add whatever vegetables you have on hand.

A bit of research online told me Kai Si Ming hit the NZ dinner scene sometime in the 60s, when recipes for it started popping up in women’s magazines, Plunket newsletters and the like.

Ingredients:

  • 1 brown onion, finely chopped
  • 450 g mincemeat
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1cup uncooked rice
  • 3 cups of chicken stock
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup broccoli, pieces
  • 2 stalks of celery, celery
  • 1 chopped red capsicum
  • 2 cups cabbage, shredded 

Heat the oil in a large pan (I use my wok)

Cook the onion until soft, then add the mince and brown.

Add Worcestershire sauce, curry powder, rice and boiling water.

Simmer for 30 minutes.

Add frozen peas and broccoli, celery and simmer for about 10 minutes

Add shredded cabbage and turn off the heat. Leave to stand with a lid on for about 5 minutes.

Serve in bowls.

** Use any vegetables that you have on hand

**Substitute the rice for noodles if you prefer.IMG_0299.JPG

If you are a child born in the 1960’s in New Zealand, your mum will have her version of this dish in her recipe book somewhere. I think mine is pretty close to my mum’s – I’ll have to ask her if I got it right!

What is a dish you can remember from your childhood that you haven’t had since then? It might be time to resurrect it and share it with your family, and make a new memory.

Happy foody memories xx

 

 

 

 

Prosciutto wrapped Prawns with Fresh Salad and a Pimento Mayo

Prosciutto wrapped Prawns with Fresh Salad and a Pimento Mayo

This delicious lunch or entreé consists of 3 parts: the prawns, the salad and the dressing.

Let’s start with the prawns:

Ingredients for 4 servings

  • 16  large prawn cutlets (4 per person)
  • 7 rashers of prosciutto, each slice cut into thirds or once lengthways

Wrap the prawns with the strips of prosciutto. Add a little splash of olive oil to a pan and sear allowing the prosciutto to caramelise before turning. This step takes literally minutes!

Okay let’s make the salad:

Ingredients for 4 servings

  • 1 carrot
  • 1 beetroot
  • 1/4 Daikon radish
  • 1 spring onion

Julienne the carrot, beetroot and Daikon; now I have a great little kitchen gadget for this job but if you don’t have one of these, it’s not to difficult to julienne with a sharp knife.

Julienne, or french cut, is when you finely slice your vegetables. Peel the vegetable, if necessary, and cut it crosswise into strips.

Rinse your beetroot in cold water to allow the colour to wash out before adding to the mix; place all the vegetables into a bowl of cold water. Add a couple of ice blocks from the freezer.

Right, now the dressing:

Ingredients for 8 servings – (why so much? because this is super yummy and it keeps in the refrigerator for another meal)

  • 2 whole roasted red peppers, seeds removed and pureed (or very finely chopped)
  • 1-2 teaspoon Spanish smoky paprika
  • 2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoon sherry vinegar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 200 ml Sunflower oil ( or a light vegetable oil)
  • Salt & pepper

Add all of the ingredients except the oil. Whisk ingredients together, and then drizzle the oil into the bowl very slowly. When thickened, season with salt and pepper to taste.

Okay let’s assemble the dish:

Drain the vegetables first off.

Take a small handful of the salad and make a mound in the middle of the plate with it; add the prawns to the plate and drizzle the Pimento dressing around the plate. I’ve decorated the plate with a little avocado oil, and micro leaves.

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And there you have a quick and tasty entreé or light lunch. I always put flavour at the top of my list when I am preparing a dish, and then ensure that the plate looks gorgeous. We eat with our eyes after all; what’s that old saying? ‘eyes bigger than your stomach’. You won’t have to worry about that with this dish!

If you feel like a seafood menu, try making this dish as the entreé and then follow with my fresh fish with chargrilled eggplant and zucchini recipe. Treat yourself to a desert after all this health – perhaps a nice piece of Pinot Noir Chocolate Cake – yes really!

Happy eating xx