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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Ratatouille

Ratatouille is a fancy (and hard name to say) French provincial stewed vegetable dish, originating in Nice.

This vegetable stew is tasty and substantial, and carefully  seasoned just before it finishes cooking brings out the flavours.

Ingredients for 8 servings:

  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced or crushed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 cups sliced zucchini
  • 1-2 green peppers, seeded and diced
  • 2-3 cups diced eggplant
  • 1/4 cup light Olive oil
  • 3 cups chopped and peeled tomatoes, substitute canned for fresh in the winter
  • 1 teaspoon fresh or dried basil or oregano
  • salt, pepper and sugar
  • chopped parsley

Take a large frying pan and fry the onions and garlic in oil until just coloured very slightly.

Add the zucchini and peppers. Cook over a moderate heat, turning the vegetables,  from time to time, for about 5-10 minutes.

Remove vegetables from the pan and brown the eggplant in the second measure of oil. Add the partly cooked vegetables, along with the tomatoes.

Cover pan with a lid, after adding basil or oregano. Cook over a low heat for about 30 minutes, then season with salt, pepper and sugar to taste.

**I add a dash of black sauce for a little bit of heat

**If serving hot, thicken with a little cornflour paste

**Quantities of vegetables may vary, and zucchini, peppers or eggplant can be left out (not all of them though :))

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Now I love Ratatouille as a side dish with grilled or poached chicken…last nights supper below.

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And it makes a super delicious breakfast with a poached egg – that’s my breakfast sorted for tomorrow!

Super tasty with a grilled sausage, poached fish, or room temperature as a salad. Give it a try especially now when eggplants are so inexpensive – $.99 cents at my local green grocer this weekend.

If you enjoyed this eggplant dish try Eggplant Parmesan – another favourite!

Happy healthy cooking xx

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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

 

Fresh Fish with Chargrilled Eggplant & Zucchini and a Red Pepper Dressing

Fresh Fish with Chargrilled Eggplant & Zucchini and a Red Pepper Dressing

I’m not really a big fish eater which means I don’t spend much time thinking about cooking it either, much to my husband’s disappointment.

We have a local Fish & Chip store which makes great fresh snapper and chips; not greasy, not too much, just right. Perhaps once a fortnight we might have this as a Friday night escape from cooking for me? and I count this as my ‘fish night’.

So when my company ‘team building offsite’ was announced and the rumours starting flying about at work that it was at the local Seafood cooking school; I would be fibbing if I did not say I had to fake my enthusiasm 🙂

We had walked through the Seafood Market which houses the cooking school some months earlier and the smell of thousands of fish did nothing for me! I had never had a hankering to spend the day in a seafood cooking school!

With some trepidation of what was to come I joined my work colleagues on the bus and headed to the event; I guess it was a day out of the office at the very least -right?

It turns out I had nothing too much to be concerned about as we filed into a classroom and took our seats. The chef took his place at the cooking benchin front of us, with large mirros behind him so we could all see the cooking bench and his very quick  movements as his knife flew across the vegetables with deft skills.

Wwe were to make a quick and easy entrée and main fish dish apparently and would do this in groups later on.  He spent the session interacting with us all with such enthusiasm and passion for the subject matter, sharing funny stories and cooking techniques, I nearly forgot we were about to handle prawns and fresh fish!

Anyway the main fish meal was so quick and easy to put together, and delicious! I wanted to share it with you as a weekday option for a family dinner. I’ll add the entrée  later on today.

Ingredients: Serves 4

  • 4 x 160gram portions of fresh fish – fillets
  • 10 black, fitted Kalamata olives
  • 10 green olives, whole
  • 1 large eggplant, thinly sliced lengthways
  • 1 large zucchini, thinly sliced lengthways
  • 2 lemons, zest and juice
  • 1 red capsicum, thinly diced
  • 60ml lemon infused olive oil ( plain olive oil will work if you don’t have the infused kind)
  • 40ml white wine vinegar
  • 90grams feta cheese
  • Parsley for garnish
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Fresh bread to serve

Firstly prepare the fish by cutting into similar sized medallions, and then set aside in a dish with a splash of olive oil. Season with salt & pepper.

Put the Kalamata and green olives in a sauté pan or oven-proof dish. Splash with a little olive oil and sear them quickly before putting into s hot oven to roast.

Coat the thinly sliced eggplant and zucchini with a little olive oil, and season with salt & pepper. Chargrill on a medium hot grill and until branded, and coloured!

Whilst the vegetables are grilling, add a splash of olive oil to a pan on a medium heat; then add the fish medallions.

Red Pepper Dressing

Take the red pepper previously prepared, lemon infused olive oil, white wine vinegar, lemon zest and juice and mix well. Season with salt & pepper. So easy!

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Layer the plate with the chargrilled eggplant and zucchini and fresh fish; crumble the feta cheese over. Drizzle with the red pepper dressing and garnish with the roasted olives and a sprinkling a chopped parsley. Squeeze some lemon juice over the dish and serve with fresh crusty bread!

A little note for people like me who don’t cook fish often enough to be an expert: Here’s how to tell if fish is done: use a fork and prick into the thickest portion of the fish at a 45-degree angle. The gently twist the fork and  pull up some of the fish. Undercooked fish resists flaking and is translucent.

You can rustle up this fish dinner in less than 25 minutes which is perfect for a weekday meal. Its healthy, and tasty so ticks plenty of boxes. Do give it a go and let me know how the family enjoyed it.

Happy fishing xx

 

Cauliflower Rice

I heard my favourite radio DJ’s talking about how great Cauliflower Rice was; I nodded in agreement as I drove to work. Polly had not heard of this and asked “How do you make rice from cauliflower?”

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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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.

I have discovered subsequently leftover uncooked ‘rice’ freezes beautifully – I whipped up some Cheesy Cauliflower Waffles from leftovers a couple of months ago.

Not only is this a super healthy alternative to traditional rice, it is much quicker to cook – and the kids love it 🙂

Happy cooking xx