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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Indian Cauliflower Rice with Tandoori Chicken

Hello fellow foodies and bloggers – long time no see, or in my case cook!

It has been a little while since I stopped to chat to you all – with my chief tester away in South Africa for three weeks; I didn’t have anyone to cook for except myself. And if any of you out there live alone, you will know what I mean when I say that cooking for one is not too inspiring!

I certainly didn’t bake for myself – and although my work colleagues thought I could have baked for them – I think I had lost my baking ‘mojo’ for that period of time.

This week I went to my GP for a check-up and review of some recent blood tests. These showed a couple of unhealthy markers – and before I knew it I was agreeing with him that losing a few pounds would be a good thing 🙂

Now, not only should I not be baking delicious cakes & cookies; but I need to give some thought to the low carb options, more fresh fruit and exercise! arghhh

So armed with a whole chicken already out for dinner; I set about considering what do make instead of the lovely roast potatoes, and roast chicken with gravy that had been on the menu. For me the most important thing is that food should taste amazing…the aroma of a good meal cooking is essential; and then it has to look good too. Who doesn’t eat with their eyes?

Tandoori Marinade for the chicken seemed like a good idea – along with some Cauliflower Rice. If you haven’t worked it out, the cauliflower rice is the low-carb option! so now all I needed to do was make it tasty.

To marinate a whole chicken (or 4 chicken pieces)

  • 1/2 cup plain unsweetened yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp onion powdertandoori-chicken
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

 

  1. Whisk all of the ingredients together, and coat your whole chicken (or pieces) well. Allow to marinate at least 30 minutes or overnight.
  2. Cook chicken on a grill rack in the oven for 30 minutes each side, or until cooked through.

 

 

 

indian-spiced-cauli

Indian Spiced Cauliflower Rice

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 a head of cauliflower
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 carrot, peeled, and Julienne them
  • 125g pineapple pieces
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • 2-3 tbsp chopped parsley to garnish
  1. Rinse your cauliflower, slicing it in half down the middle. Roughly chop and place into a food processor . Pulse in one-second intervals until the cauliflower  pieces are about the size of grains of rice.
  2. Mix all of the spices together and mix through the cauliflower. Set aside while you prepare the pan.
  3. In a large pan heat the butter and olive oil. When it is hot, add all of the cauliflower and carrot, stirring occasionally for 5-8 minutes, or until tender.
  4. Just as the cauliflower is starting to feel tender, add the pineapple pieces to heat through.
  5. Take off the heat, and toss the chopped parsley through the pan.

(I pulsed a whole cauliflower and put half into a freezer bag  to save for another meal – 1/2 a head makes more than enough for two – in fact there was left over of the cooked ‘rice’for my lunch tomorrow!)

Tandoori Chicken meal.png

 

I added broccoli to our meal – got to get those 5+ vegetables in per day somehow! and a dollop of my Eggplant Kasundi just because it seemed like a good match.

All in all the chief tester thought it was delicious, and I will definetely be making cauliflower rice again as a healthy alternative to starchy rice or potatoes.

Give it a  go – it was not only quick and easy to put together, but tasty too! And I suggest the children would not even suspect the ‘rice’ was cauliflower making this a perfect way to  introduce  more vegetables in for them too 🙂

Happy cooking xx

 

Stop – and Recalibrate Yourself

Stop and Recalibrate Yourself, August 2016
We live in such a fast-paced world where technology allows us to work day and night – my boss told me off gently earlier this week for sending him an email at 8.30pm. To which I replied equally as nicely – “and you answered it at 10.30pm!”
In my defence I was sitting on the sofa in my pyjama’s with my iPad – was I really working?  I certainly didn’t think of it as working.
Either way, pushing myself will not increase my life-span but may just decrease it?  A wise man said the other week to myself and others “You need to stop and recalibrate you!” He could not have spoken a truer word. It made me stop and think about what I could do differently with my 7-days.
Do you remember when the shopping malls were only open late one night a week, and closed all weekend? When you managed to get your shopping done after work, and your bills paid by posting a cheque? There was no fibre broadband, smart phones or iPads.
In our home Saturday’s were often filled with household chores; clean sheets on beds, vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms, mowing lawns and cleaning cars and those activities after an early morning football game with the our eldest son.
Sunday was reserved for ‘family time’ – perhaps a trip to the beach, or lunch with extended family. It was a day where no chores were done, where teenagers were encouraged to hang out with the whole family, and where busy working Mum’s and Dad’s could do something for themselves without feeling guilty for ‘doing nothing’.
I have fond memories of ‘topping and tailing’ with my oldest son, on his bed, in the sun, both of us with our noses in a book!
Back in 1840 Samuel Duncan Parnell, a carpenter in NZ, refused to work for more than eight hours a day when building a shop for a merchant. He was successful in negotiating this working condition – and New Zealand now has the reputation of being the first country in the world to have adopted the eight-hour working day.
It was reported that Parnell said “There are twenty-four hours per day given to us; eight of these should be for work, eight for sleep, and the remaining eight for recreation and in which men to do what little things they want for themselves”.
Granted this is a little sexist but you get the point!
We travel 1-2 hours to work (if you live in Auckland that is ‘normal’) work 8-10 hour days, and then drive home the 1-2 hours travel time – for most working parents; there is dinner to cook, sports practice to get kids too, homework to check, washing to do and bills to pay!
When do we stop and recalibrate – or breathe in?
I love the idea of working 6-days and taking the 7th day as a day of rest – or recalibration. Whatever days of the week you work, you can fit in a day for you.
Call it what you like, it is so important to stop and breathe in so you can go again. We won’t survive this life if we don’t.
Here are my Four Fundamentals to help you ‘breathe in’.
1. Design personal replenishment
I had a wonderful opportunity some years ago to have some Life Coaching. I hunted out the material this weekend and read through what I had committed too. It made interesting reading for me and I realised how far I have strayed from that ‘Extreme Self-Care’ that is necessary to keep myself alive;  in body, mind and spirit.
Part of the exercise was to draw a circle and section out your life into the important areas for you – The balanced Whole Life. Here is a pic of that piece of paper and my thoughts at the time.
Take Time for Your Life.png
The writing is small so this is what it says:
Relationships – children, friends, parents, lover, work colleagues, spouse
Spiritual well-being – inner security, sense of peace & centeredness
Emotional & Physical Health – exercise, eating regular meals, quiet time, solitude
Contributions to others – being of service & support to those in need, be that with knowledge or time
Work – my life is not my work?
Fun & Leisure – interestingly I had not made any comments on this section.

I wrote down the key things for me and what I was going to commit to doing or I had already working for me:

Relationships – I spend time with people who make me laugh, and I have relationships with people who stimulate me intellectually
Environment – I listen to my favourite music, and my home neat, & well-organised
Body, Mind & Spirit – I exercise regularly, and eat healthier. I set aside regular time for solitude & silence and find a safe & healthy outlet for my emotional wellbeing

Work – I have a mentor who guide and encourages me, I always take a lunch break, and I have colleagues who inspire and respect me. My ideas and talents are welcome at work.
Some of these things have changed for me, but many are the same.
Listening to my favourite music still feels me with joy, singing out loud makes me feel happy. I have new hobbies now; photography, baking, and cooking…and of course my blog – these things ‘replenish’ me.

Get a piece of paper out and write down what makes you feel good – it is a good exercise.

What the recharges you? Part of your life begins to die if you don’t look after it. Some of us feel guilty if we don’t stop and do something that replenish our soul. We all need to discover what replenishes us and then just do it.

2. Designate a day – pre-plan the day by setting it aside to do what you want for you.
prioritise the day  – the key is to empower the important over the urgent. I work Monday to Friday currently and have resorted back to the familiar – housework on a Saturday and my day on a Sunday!
Choose to spend the day on things that bring you joy – and make decisions for this day on what you want instead of what others want from you.
3. Disengage from work
It was not that long ago that there was no mobile phones, or email…and work survived! Turn that phone off !
4. Develop healthy relationships
Build friendships – talk to people, have conversations. It is imperative to have depth of relationship for you to make it all the way through life.
I hope that you get something out of reading this today – when I heard the words myself a few weeks ago, they really spoke to me. I felt compelled to share what really is a number of life lessons that I had learnt and forgotten.
I took my own advice this afternoon and went for a brisk walk – the dogs were delighted, and I was rewarded with a  beautiful sunset captured through my phone lens above!
Happy recalibrating xx

One-Pot Smoked Paprika Chicken

One-Pot Smoked Paprika Chicken, August 2016

One-Pot Smoked Paprika Chicken with carrots, potatoes & mushrooms is full of flavour, healthy and so easily put together! Try it with rice, quinoa or couscous.

Ingredients

  • 500g, skinless, boneless chicken thighs, chopped into 4 pieces
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt & black pepper
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 medium onion, finely sliced
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • 350g small potatoes, cut into 2 cm chunks
  • 2 cups carrots, sliced
  • 2 tbsp flourOne-pot
  • 1 1/3 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • garnish – fresh thyme if you have it – parsley if you don’t

Take the smoked paprika, salt & pepper and mix together in a zip lock bag.  Mix the chicken with the spiced set aside.

Heat the oil in a large pan – add the chicken and cook until brown. Put aside.

Next cook the onion, and garlic in the pan. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the potatoes and carrots. Mix well and cook for about 5 minutes.

Whisk the flour with the wine, and pour into the pan with the vegetables. Bring to the boil, stirring as you go. Add the chicken stock and stir again. Next add the chicken back to the pan and bring to the boil.

Cover the pan and simmer gently on a low heat for roughly 30 minutes.

Taste and adjust with more salt & pepper – serve on rice, quinoa or couscous.

And that is as easy as it gets – this is a delicious tasty one-pot meal that the whole family will enjoy!

Happy cooking xx

Smoked chicken

Almond Rhubarb Cake

Following on from my Rhubarb Tart last week, that we enjoyed so much, I wanted to share this rhubarb cake recipe with you all.

It was honestly really good…warm from the oven, which my hubby says is the ‘only way’ to eat baking! any kind!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup sugar, plus 1 tbsp for topping
  • 125 g softened butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp orange zest
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla paste or extract
  • 1/4 tsp almond extract
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup almond meal/flour
  • 1 tsp banking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 350 g rhubarb
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds

Rhubarb: for this recipe I reached for my already prepared rhubarb in the freezer and let it defrost on the bench while I prepared the cake mix. If you have fresh rhubarb, just cut the stalks into pieces about 1 -1/2 cm in length. You don’t need to pre-cook for this recipe.

 

Almond & Rhubarb Cake
Mixed & ready for the oven
  1. Preheat your oven to 180 °c, and line a 10″ spring-form pan with baking paper.
  2. Beat the cup of sugar and the butter until light and creamy, add eggs one at a time. mixing after each one.
  3. Next add the yoghurt, orange zest and both extracts. Mix well.
  4. Sift all of the next ingredients into the wet mixture, adding gradually and mixing well as you go.
  5. Spread about half of the cake mixture into the base of the prepared cake pan. The mixture will be thick and a bit tacky – don’t worry, that is how it should be!
  6. Next layer roughly a half of the rhubarb on top – make sure the rhubarb does not go to the edge of the cake mix. Leave a gap.
  7. Spread the rest of the car mix onto the rhubarb – arrange the remaining rhubarb on top.
  8. Sprinkle the sliced almonds and the 1 tablespoon of sugar over the top.
  9. Bake for approximately 50-60 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean.
  10. Leave to cool in the cake pan – or if you have a ‘chief tester’ at your place, dust it with icing sugar, slice and serve immediately! whipped cream or marscarpone; your choice.

This cake does store well for a couple of days at room temperature in an airtight container.

I have a glass cake dome on my kitchen bench and that’s where you will find fresh baked cakes at our house – that way they don’t get forgotten in the pantry 🙂

I am wondering if I can get away with this cake being breakfast food? You know how I feel about hot Blueberry, Apple & Coconut Crumble! for breakfast – if I have a slice with yoghurt surely it will be alright?

I’ll let you know!

Happy baking xx

Rhubarb Cake
Out of the oven, and the ‘chief tester’ proclaimed it a keeper!