Update: Roasted broccoli “meatballs”

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Yes this is an old picture (busted!) but I felt like this post needed a revamp given how much I have changed this recipe over the last couple of years. Veggie meatballs with spaghetti have become quite the staple in our house – it is a good way to add some veggies and protein to an otherwise carb-heavy meal, and makes a pack of spaghetti go a lot further so I can stock the freezer for busy days. There seems to be a lot of busy days at the moment. I am on a research term currently, which is fantastic, but it is quite a bit of work to juggle with my Masters, volunteering, and applying for my first real job as a doctor. There are many cover letters to write and a CV to perfect, so I have been a bit distracted. That being said, I have been doing reasonably well with keeping our freezer stocked at the moment and thought I would include a little list of what it is stocked with:

  • This Goan feast, which I have mentioned before
  • Low sugar (i.e. date-free) bliss balls: lemon cheesecake and cherry ripe flavours. These have been awesome and I am doing some final tweaking but will post them soon.
  • This decadent lasagne, great for winter. It has a sour cream béchamel which is beautiful.
  • A modified version of this beet bourguignon, with french lentils and mashed potato
  • Broccoli and bean enchiladas

But, back on topic, the meatballs! After many refinements, I have come up with a new favourite version:

Roasted broccoli, lentil and ricotta “meatballs”

1 big head broccoli (or 2 small)

Dried chilli flakes (pinch)

1 tin lentils, rinsed (tinned seems to work better texturally but freshly cooked works too, you will need ~1.5 cups)

1 clove garlic, roughly chopped

400g ricotta, firmer is better

1 egg

Olive oil spray

Chop the broccoli into florets and toss into a tray with some olive oil, chilli flakes, salt and pepper. Don’t forget to add the stalk chopped up as well, it is delicious. Pop in a 200˚C oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges of the broccoli are brown and crispy. Add to the food processor with the lentils, garlic, ricotta and egg. Process until combined but still some chunks. Shape roughly into balls and place on a tray lined with baking paper. Spray (or brush) balls with olive oil. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until the balls are just starting to be tinged golden brown. Can be served with a whole bunch of different things, but I love them with spaghetti. I make a puttanesca-ish sauce with pasta, capers, olives, chilli, parsley, lots of garlic and a splash of red wine vinegar. Add some toasted pine nuts and grated parmesan on top and you have a pretty special meal. Freeze really well so can be added to lots of other dishes for a hit of protein.

Food tips from Europe

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So Mr Veggie and I went halfway around the world over the summer to experience European winter, Christmas, and the food. We ate our way through 13 countries and had an absolute blast. When I was planning our epic adventure I loved to read tips on blogs about great places to go so I thought I’d post up some of our favourites and a couple of pics.

Our favourite place for food was France by far (Paris, Dijon, Strasbourg, Annecy). I love the French food philosophy – simple food done well. They really value local, seasonal food and have a wonderfully balanced approach to food (and life). Plus you can’t beat wine at lunchtime.

Paris

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  • Le Petit Cler – bistro style food that is affordable but delicious. This place is on a cute street near the Eiffel tower, but far enough away to not be filled with tourists constantly. Mr Veggie loved the steak.
  • Cuisine de Bar – nice lunch spot for tartines (open sandwiches), in a nice part of Paris for shopping
  • Angelina – best hot chocolate in Paris (super rich and super expensive but amazing)
  • La Cure Gourmande – these are all over France. The apple cinnamon biscuits may be my favourite sweet treat of all time.
  • Paris Christmas markets (Champs Elysees) had amazing food, probably the best of any of the markets we went to
  • Laduree – inventors of the macaron
  • Verjus Bar a Vin for drinks and French tapas. Very small but very cosy, nice atmosphere.
  • L’As du falafel (Le Marais) – best falafel in the world. Endorsed by Lenny Kravitz so you know it’s good. SO GOOD. Must try if in Paris.
  • Breizh Café for crepes and galettes (and normandie cidre)
  • Arnaud Delmontel – unbelievable cakes. A must try.

Dijon

  • The Little Italy Shop – amazing house made pasta and desserts. One of the best meals on the whole trip.

Freiburg, Germany

  • Hausbrauerei Feierling – maybe it was because we had been hiking in the black forest all day, but this classic German pub food was amazing. The house-brewed beer was delicious as well.

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Amsterdam:

  • Apple cake/pie at Winkel. An absolute must try, it is freaking amazing. An institution.
  • Kroketten at Van Dobben, really good and very traditional (just like my Oma makes them!). Good to try a CEBO one as well just for the experience of buying it from the funny vending machine shop.

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Prague

  • Lokal – classic Czech cuisine in a cool soviet era style place
  • Cilibar – a great (and cheap) cocktail bar slightly hidden down side streets in the main part of Prague, nice to escape the crowds

Budapest

  • Elso Pesti Reteshaz, a hungarian strudel house. Mr Veggie had a cracker roast duck with potato and onion strudel. Their veggie and sweet strudels were also delicious.

Vienna:

  • Hotel sacher for the classic Sacher torte (I didn’t think it was all that special but it’s an essential experience)
  • Ottakringer Landhaus for Wiener Schnitzel – a bit out of the main area but really nice food and atmosphere, and a brewery as well

Mediterranean stuffed eggplant + Christmas in July

afterlight 3 afterlight copy Yes I realise July was a while ago. I thought I had forgotten to take pictures of our Christmas in July dinner, but Mr Veggie had a whole stack on his phone. We had sundried tomato arancinis, cannellini bean pate, baked red mullet with fennel, mussels in a tomato sauce, and this Mediterranean stuffed eggplant dish. For dessert we had a caramelised date and fig ice cream cake. It was very good. And very rich. Everyone pitched in, so it was easy and pretty relaxing to prepare all the food! This eggplant dish was a good find – easy to prepare, pretty healthy, but also a bit decadent. It also freezes really well so is worth making a big batch of for future dinners/lunches. afterlight 2 afterlight 4 Mediterranean stuffed eggplant

Adapted from greenkitchenstories

2 eggplants, sliced thinly lengthways and fried in a little oil

Stuffing:

  • 100g cracked freekah, cooked
  • 100g cracked bulgur, cooked 200g feta (reserve 1/3 for topping)
  • 30g pine nuts toasted
  • 20g walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1 spring onion, sliced
  • Handful parsley, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbs capers, rinsed and chopped roughly
  • 1 egg

Sauce:

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Big pinch dried chilli flakes
  • Pinch dried oregano
  • 1 jar pureed tomatoes (passata)
  • Handful cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2tbs basil torn

Gently fry the garlic, chilli and oregano in a heavy saucepan. Add passata and cherry tomatoes and cook until thickened (approx 30 mins). Season and add torn basil.

Assembly is easy – mix all the filling ingredients together, then place some filling onto each piece of eggplant and roll up. Top with tomato sauce and a little extra feta. Bake in 180˚C oven until edges are bubbling and feta is just slightly browned (20-30 mins).

Where does the time go?

So I blinked and nearly 4 months have passed since my last post. Oops. I have been cooking but posting to the blog seems to always be further down on my priority list. My rotations this semester (Aged care, GP, psychiatry) have meant I have been moving around quite a bit. When I am home on the weekends I crave healthy wholesome food, like this salad below.

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Not so much a recipe as a collection of bits and pieces, but it’s something. There is no point writing down amounts – it is about using up what you’ve got 🙂

Winter vegetable and barley salad

1 bunch baby beetroot, boiled, peeled and quartered

Mixed roasted root vegetables (I used pumpkin and carrot, + some roasted garlic cloves)

Kale, washed and roughly chopped

Handful toasted walnuts, roughly chopped

2 cups (ish) cooked pearl barley

Feta, crumbled

 

Toss all the ingredients together with olive oil and red wine vinegar. Add a little pepper and top with feta. Simple but tasty winter food.

 

Other things I’ve been cooking:

– A deliciously naughty potato and cabbage gratin. Lots of cream and gruyere. Paired it with a kale salad in an attempt to save my semi-healthy reputation.

– Root vegetable pasties for the freezer

– A 9-veg bolognese sauce that is worth sharing, perhaps I will remember to write it down sometime

– Sundried tomato arancini

– Cauliflower cheese soup

 

Strawberry oat bran muffins

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These are hefty breakfast muffins that aren’t just cake in disguise. Enjoy as is, or with a dollop of greek yoghurt (or vanilla 5am!), or my favourite – with a generous slather of butter. Feel free to substitute with other fruits depending on what’s in season.

Strawberry oat bran muffins – makes 12

Loosely adapted from smitten kitchen

  • 200 ml (1 small tub) greek style yoghurt (full fat), thinned out with enough water to make up 315ml (should approximate milk consistency)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 cup lightly packed dark muscovado sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 1 1/2 cups oat bran
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp coconut sugar (or any granulated sugar), divided
  • 1 cup chopped strawberries (frozen are fine)

Preheat oven to 210˚C. Line 12-muffin pan with muffin cup liners.

Whisk the yoghurt-water mixture, egg, dark sugar, vanilla extract and orange zest. Slowly add the coconut oil while whisking so it doesn’t form too many lumps, but don’t stress – a few won’t hurt.

Mix the bran, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a separate bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Place approximately 2 tablespoons of muffin mixture into each liner. Sprinkle the chopped strawberries with 1 tsp of the coconut sugar, and then spread the strawberries evenly on top of your partially filled muffin liners. Top with the remaining muffin mixture. Sprinkle lightly with the remaining coconut sugar.

Bake for 16-18 minutes, rotating once to ensure even browning.  Muffins are done when a skewer comes out clean.

Delicious straight from the oven with a little butter. I haven’t attempted freezing them yet but muffins are usually pretty good from frozen.

 

Zucchinis stuffed with quinoa, feta and pine nuts

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Mr Veggie and I went to the local farmers market last weekend and bought these beautiful round zucchinis for super cheap. They are absolutely perfect for stuffing. We also got some amazing swiss chard and made this, which was delicious. Mr Veggie got some preservative-free sausages as well, which he had on the side of the stuffed zucchini – they looked pretty amazing and were a bargain. I’ve been on holidays this week, and it was nice to have some time to cook again, which can be tricky during the semester. Being a med student can be challenging time-wise, and in addition to medicine I am studying a grad certificate in teaching and a master of public health. This is on top of weekly volunteering and a couple of committee positions, so you can see how it becomes hard to find the time to cook good food. Writing that all down made it sound like more than I realised! In saying that though, what me (and Mr Veggie) eat is important to me, and I do try to make good choices when I have the energy. It can be all too easy to fall into the kinda-healthy pasta bake trap, and I am going to try to be better this new term at med school (paediatrics).

Zucchini stuffed with quinoa, feta and pine nuts

This recipe freezes well – so feel free to make double and freeze for future dinners or work lunches.

  • 4 round zucchinis
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup risoni or rice
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 2 cups stock (salt-reduced vegetable or chicken)
  • Crumbled feta – approx 1/2 a standard ‘block’
  • Handful or two of green leaves (I used baby spinach and baby kale)
  • Good handful of parsley, chopped roughly
  • To serve: a side salad or roasted vegies (+ sausages if you’re like Mr Veggie!)

Preheat oven to 180˚C. Slice the ‘lids’ off the zucchinis and hollow them out, taking care not to pierce the ‘shells’. Roughly chop the zucchini flesh and fry on medium heat with a glug of olive oil. Add garlic and a little salt.

Once the zucchini has cooked down to about 1/2 it’s volume, add quinoa and rice/risoni, and stock. Once stock has been mostly absorbed (but still quite ‘sloppy’), take off heat, season generously with pepper, and stir through pine nuts, parsley and 1/2 the feta.

Spoon filling into zucchinis, topping with a bit more feta before popping the lids back on them and baking in the oven until the filling and zucchinis are cooked (around 30 mins). If you want to serve with roasted veggies – fill the rest of the tray with parboiled potatoes and sweet potatoes. I usually stir a little rosemary and garlic through towards the end of cooking to give them a bit more flavour.

 

 

Apologies…

It has been a while since my last post I’m afraid. I have been very busy with med and other commitments and sadly have been eating a lot of pasta bakes! I try to make them nutritious by adding a heap of kale, lentils and whatever other vegetable I have on hand, and then make a huge batch so we can eat them for lunches or dinner later. I have a break coming up and plan to post something new then. 

In terms of medicine, I’ve just finished an obstetrics and gynaecology block – it was well organised but I have crossed O&G off my list of future specialties. I have been missing adult medicine quite a bit – hopefully my upcoming paediatrics rotation will contain lots of long cases and ward rounds to help me feel inspired again.