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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Eggplant Parmesan

I discovered eggplant last year, and when it is not so ridiculously priced ($5.00 each!) I make sure to pick one up with my fruit & vegetable shopping. I have found them to be a vegetable that I can use to ‘make something quick and tasty from nothing’ if you know what I mean?

Eggplants, or ‘Aubergines’ if you feel like being fancy and French! are considered a fruit – and is related to the tomato and the potato. It is used in many different cuisines, including curries and one of my favourites chutney.  I made a very tasty chutney last year:  Chutney Anyone? So Easy & So Delish!

Eggplant is often stewed and I have made my version of the French ratatouille which is diced onions, tomatoes courgettes, capsicums with garlic, marjoram and basil all piled into a pan and cooked! Very simple and really good with a poach egg on top for a quick and easy breakfast.

This recipe does take a little prep time, however is well worth it. It makes a nice side dish to a steak, or grilled chicken breast and is equally happy being the centre of attention – the main course for a happy vegetarian 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium eggplant, sliced into circles about 1cm thick
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 cup Italian or whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 2 cups chunky marinara sauce
  • 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°c
  2. Pour milk into a shallow bowl and bread crumbs onto a plate. Dip each slice of eggplant in the milk, moistening each side. Then press on to bread crumbs making sure both sides are thoroughly coated. Place slices on a baking sheeted tray and bake until tender: about 25 minutes.
  3. Spoon some marinara sauce, about 1/4 cup, onto the bottom of a greased casserole dish. Add a layer of eggplant slices and cover with more sauce. Sprinkle some mozzarella over the sauce, then repeat the layering until your’ve reached the end of your eggplant slices. Top the slices with the last of the sauce and sprinkle with the parmesan cheese.
  4. Bake uncovered for about 40 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and let the eggplant set for about 10 minutes before serving.

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If you are feeling adventurous try my Ratatouille dish out. Delicious vegetables that will please any palate!

Happy cooking xx

 

Cheesy Cauliflower Waffles

Cheesy Cauliflower Waffles

Last weekend I ventured into the exciting new world of waffles after purchasing my very first waffle maker. Blueberry Waffles were my first attempt and they were a big success with the chief tester.

These airy, delicate and crisp-edged waffles were so fabulous, yet so simple to throw together, that they are destined to become part of our weekend breakfast routine. You can freeze leftovers, if you have any, and serve them during the week. You can pop them in the toaster to reheat (use a light setting) and they come out nearly as well as freshly made, maybe even slightly crunchier.

During the week I had considered what other ingredients I could use to make a different type of waffle. I had mentioned sweet potato, or Kumara, as we know it in New Zealand, and cauliflower as a couple of thoughts.

Late last year the cauliflower rice ‘fad’ hit the news and I climbed onboard that train with many others. It’s light and fluffy, like couscous, but totally healthy – and very simple to make.

There are two the techniques for making cauliflower rice. You can either use a grater traditionally used for cheese, or a food processor with the grate blade to blitz it into small pieces.  With both techniques you’re aiming for little pieces.

One you have your cauliflower rice, it’s super easy to cook! Simply sauté in a large pan over a medium heat with 1 tablespoon of oil. Use the lid to cover so the cauliflower steams and becomes tender.  Cook for 5-8 minutes stirring occasionally, then season to your taste.

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Anyway, I made a recipe that used cauliflower rice and ended up with leftover blitzed cauliflower so I popped it into a ziplock bag and out it in the freezer.  When I got up on Saturday morning thinking about my next great waffle, I grabbed the frozen cauliflower rice rom the freezer and this became my base for my first savoury waffle.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup raw cauliflower rice
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese (or grated colby if you don’t have mozzarella cheese)
  • 1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon garlic
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon chives, chopped
  • fresh parsley

Heat the waffle maker until ready. Mix all of the ingredients together well in a large bowl. Add approx. 1 1/4 cups of the batter to the griddle. Set your timer to 4-6 minutes, and check at about the 4 minute mark. If the waffle maker sticks, let cook slightly longer. Remove once cooked, and allow to cool on plate.

These crispy waffles with a side of bacon and an egg made the most delicious brunch and got the thumbs up from the chief tester!

*I did find the mix got a little wet as the cauliflower rice defrosted waiting to be the second batch so I add 1/4 cup coconut flour and 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder. This did not have a negative impact on the flavour profile but does add gluten to what is otherwise a gluten-free recipe)

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If you have only gone sweet with your waffles, do give this savoury version an opportunity.  Without the flour it is gluten-free; and only the cook will know it is made with the cauliflower rice.

I’m thinking I will add spinach to this next time, and perhaps sundries tomatoes to really jazz up my Cheesy Cauliflower Waffles.  The options are really limitless and I’m looking forward to next weekend and something different again. Watch this space

Happy waffling xx

No-Bake Lemon Quark Cheesecake

‘Quark?’ I hear you say – what on earth is that? Quark means ‘curd’ in German and is thought to have originated in Central Europe–in fact it has been made since the Iron Age!

Quark is a fresh, white cheese, very similar to Ricotta. It can be used in baking for both savoury and sweet pies, mousse and cheesecakes. It is also a good low-fat replacement for butter in scrambled eggs. The flavour is mild and milky; not surprising when you learn that it is made from pasteurised milk which has a starter culture added to it then some rennet to form the curd. It is then hung in cheesecloth to drain some of the whey off.

I discovered Quark last weekend at my favourite food store Farro Fresh on the North Shore here in Auckland. I love Farro because the store showcases the very best and finest of New Zealand food, which means you can always find something new and delicious to try. IMG_0203.png

I chatted to the maker of this Quark who was in the store demonstrating the product.

The Cheese Barn can be found on the Hauraki Plains of New Zealand in a little town called Matatoki. They specialise in certified organic cheeses and yoghurt’s that are gluten-free, have no artificial additives, antibiotics, growth hormones and no chemical sprays.

The ‘chief tester’ and I tried a little piece of this No-Bake Lemon Quark Cheesecake in the store and we loved it! I bought several tubs of the Quark and could not wait for the long weekend to make one for dessert 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 80-100g plain biscuits
  • 50g melted butter
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 200g soft cream cheese
  • 500g quark
  • Zest of 2 lemons & juice of 3 lemons
  • 3-3 1/2 tsp gelatin
  1. Crush the biscuits, mix in the butter and the press not a 20cm spring form tin.
  2. Whisk the cream cheese, quark and icing sugar in a large bowl, and then fold in  the zest.
  3. Soak the gelatine in the lemon juice, then melt on a low heat.
  4. Beat into the cheese mix – until smooth. Spoon in to the biscuit base.
  5. Chill until set (approximately 3-4 hours) in the refrigerator.
  6. Serve with chopped pistachio’s, and a dollop of cream

Now if you can’t source Quark, you can use Ricotta for this recipe however I do recommend that you hunt the stuff down – it  has a smoother texture and a brighter flavour than ricotta.

I’m sold and will be restocking to ensure I can whip this cheesecake up again, and feel slightly guilt-free for eating dessert 🙂

Happy ‘Quark’ day xx

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