Quick update

It has been a bit hectic around here, as I try to get back in the rhythm of med school, and finish off all the preparation for the year like finally having an empty dirty washing basket, cleaning the shower properly, and stuffing the freezer as full as possible. So instead of a recipe today I have a list of a few things I’ve made in the last week (with links) as I haven’t been particularly creative – I have been churning things out as fast as I can.

Snacks

  • An amazing beetroot-chocolate cake from green kitchen stories. My changes: wholemeal flour substituted for spelt (worked fine) and used plain old cocoa instead of cacao (which cost $9 for a small packet at my local organic shop!). It tasted great. I used 2/3 coconut oil and 1/3 olive oil for the oils. Defrosted beautifully and could go in the microwave.
  • Also from greenkitchenstories, delicious date balls that took no time to make and are delicious even straight from the freezer. I will definitely be making these again and trying some variations (?peppermint oil ?coffee ?dried cherries). I used a combination of almonds, walnuts and pecans for the nut component.
  • An apple cake loaf, made based on this recipe (but in loaf form). I grated the apples instead and used 1/2 wholemeal, 1/2 white flour. Turned out great and froze well.
  • I didn’t quite get around to but will hopefully make another Quinoa Crackle Banana Bread next weekend.

Freezer meals

  • This Goan feast from smittenkitchen.com. Delcious. The best dahl I have made at home. I upped the coriander (a lot) and served it with brown rice and a quick mustard seed and cumin yoghurt (+ curried chicken strips for Mr. Veggie). We got 9 leftover portions for lunches and dinner in the next couple of months.
  • The best vegetarian lasagne I have made in a while, which may live up to it’s title of World’s Greatest Vegetable Lasagna
  • A cracking throw-together tomato risotto, oozing with cheese, basil and white beans, with little bursts of whole cherry tomatoes and a rich passata base. I forgot to take a picture, otherwise this post would have been about that risotto. Just thinking about it again now is making me hungry…
  • A mexican soup/stew based on this delicious chilli with a few extra veggies thrown in. We scooped some leftovers (minus the liquid) onto corn chips and sprinkled with lots of cheese for impromptu nachos one night – it was good!
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Quinoa Crackle Banana Bread

Quinoa Crackle Banana Cake 1

You may have sensed a bit of a theme here….this is indeed another healthy(ish) make-ahead snack option. Possibly my favourite so far, especially because it is SO EASY. The key is to get really nice juicy big dates, their caramel flavour turns what are otherwise plain ingredients (including raw quinoa!) into something that tastes good enough to eat for dessert.

Quinoa Crackle Banana Cake 2

Quinoa Crackle Date-nana Bread

Inspired by Deb Perleman’s Crackly banana bread with millet

  • 3 large very ripe bananas
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin coconut oil (in oil form, warm it if solid)
  • 1/3 cup dark muscovado sugar
  • 1/4 cup liquid sweetener of choice – I used half maple, half golden syrup (as maple is a bit pricey for my student budget)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Good pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups wholemeal flour
  • Scant 1/3 cup raw quinoa (the red kind looks particularly pretty)
  • 7 big juicy dates, pitted and cut into small chunks (approx 0.5×0.5cm) – or 8 smaller dates
  • Heaped 1/2 cup of walnuts, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 180˚C and generously butter a loaf tin.

In the bottom of a large bowl, mash bananas with a fork or the back of a wooden spoon to desired consistency – I’m not a big fan of banana chunks so I mashed mine until very smooth, but feel free to leave a few lumps if you like that.

Whisk in egg, then oil, brown sugar, then maple syrup or sugar of your choosing. Sprinkle baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves over the batter and stir until combined. Stir in flour until just combined, then quinoa, then dates and walnuts.

Pour your mixture into the loaf tin and bake until a fork or skewer comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Leave to cool for a few minutes and then transfer to a baking rack. Try to avoid cutting into while still warm (good luck).

Storage: these keep beautifully sliced up in the freezer. Be sure to put them in the freezer quickly though otherwise you might eat it all before you get a chance…

Homemade berry-date fruit bars

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This is another attempt to fill my freezer with healthier snacks I can grab when I have busy days at the hospital. I love the organic fruit bars you can buy (i.e. apricot and manuka honey) but they cost way too much for my student budget. Enter a homemade version, and this way you know exactly what’s in it as well!

Berry-date wholemeal fruit bars

Adapted from Food and Whine: Homemade fruit bars

Filling:

  • 10 dates, pitted
  • 1/2 cup dried blueberries
  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries
  • 1/2 cup water

Dough:

  • 120g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup muscovado or dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 2 generous tbsp flax seeds
  • 3/4 cup cup wholemeal flour
  • 3/4 cup plain flour

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Line two cookie trays with baking paper.

In a saucepan, simmer filling ingredients on medium-low until the water has evaporated and the fruit looks quite soft.  Leave to cool for a few minutes.

Blitz oats and flax seeds in food processor until you get a coarse flour. Transfer to a bowl. Blitz your fruit mix in the processor and set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar, then add the egg and vanilla and beat until smooth. Stir in the flours and oat-flaxseed until a dough forms (if too sticky add some more flour). Flour your workspace and divide dough into manageable portions (I did 3). Roll the dough out on floured board until about 0.5cm thick. Trim edges to make a rectangle. Leaving 5cm space on the edge, place a line of filling along the rectangle, then fold over the dough to make a bar. It will look fragile and like it can’t possibly hold together but it will! Cut your roll into your desired sizes and place on the trays. Repeat until you have used all the dough and filling (any excess dough can be turned into thumbprint jam cookies!). Bake in the oven for 18-20 minutes or until lightly golden (not too dark). Transfer to a wire rack to cool, where they should firm up a bit and become quite hardy.

Makes ~20 4cmx4cm bars with a bit of leftover dough. Store baked bars individually wrapped in the freezer for convenient healthy snacking or leave on the bench in an airtight container for a few days.

Delicious, easy and healthy(ish) muesli bars

As a busy medical student I am always looking for a reasonably healthy and portable snack. Ideally, this means making it at home but the few muesli bar recipes I have tried have been quite time-consuming and involved. Not this one. A virtually no cook recipe, that makes firm and delicious muesli bars that freeze beautifully when individually wrapped and can easily be grabbed on the way out the door!

Peanut butter maple syrup muesli bars

Adapted from sproutedkitchen.comImage

  • 1.5 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup rice bubbles/rice puff cereal (essential for crispiness)
  • 1 cup brown rice puffs (to make it a bit healthier!)
  • Heaped 1/2 cup roughly chopped mixed nuts – I used equal parts almonds, walnuts and pecans
  • 2 tbs flaxseeds
  • 14 pitted dates
  • 1/3 cup your choice of sweetener – I used equal parts maple syrup, golden syrup and agave but you could use any combination of liquid sugars (I think brown rice syrup would work too)
  • 1 cup natural peanut butter (I used half Kraft peanut butter to keep costs down and it still worked fine)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 50g dark chocolate

Preheat the oven to 180˚ and line a 28×28 baking pan. Toast the oats on a tray for 10 minutes and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine both types of rice puffs, chopped nuts, flaxseed seeds, oats and mix. Chop the dates into something resembling a chunky paste (could be done in the food processor).

Gently warm the sugars, peanut butter, cinnamon, salt and stir to mix. Leave to cool for a minute or two. Pour the warm mix and dates over the dry ingredients and squish everything together, breaking up the date clumps with your hands to break them up. Be careful as the sugar-peanut butter mix can be quite hot, make sure you’re not going to burn yourself and then get stuck into it and make a big sticky mess.

Press the mixture into the lined pan in an even layer, using the bottom of something flat to push the mixture down tightly as possible. The tighter it is squashed, the better the bars stay together.

In a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water, melt the chocolate until smooth. Drizzle the chocolate over the pan of bars, you will probably have some chocolate left over but I prefer a light drizzle. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour before cutting. Keep covered in the fridge where they last around 5 days or wrap them individually and store in the freezer ready to grab on the go.

I am planning on trying a few variations on this in the next couple of weeks. I’m thinking:

  • Dried apricot, date and macadamia with white chocolate drizzle
  • Dried cherry, pecan and dark chocolate
  • Almond butter, apple and cinnamon with no chocolat

 

Post-QLD detox

You may have gathered from my last post that most of the food I was eating in QLD was not very healthy (excluding the mangoes). It is actually very difficult to find healthy vegetarian food in rural Far North QLD. So since I have been back I have been on a bit of a healthy eating bender. Last night we had a Moroccan carrot salad with silverbeet-kale fritters (see below). Coming soon in the next few days: sumer vegetable hash with roasted cherry tomato chipotle sauce, home-made peanut butter-date-maple granola bars, and some details about the menu for my Christmas party.

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Silverbeet-kale fritters (makes 8 – serving 4-8 people but I think they will freeze well once cooked and they reheated nicely for my lunch today)

  • Four big handfuls of mixed greens (I used a combination of silverbeet and kale), washed and thinly sliced
  • 3 eggs
  • Approx 1/2 cup wholemeal flour
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 handfuls grated haloumi
  • 1 leek, sauteed
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • Vegetable oil – 4 tablespoons

Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl. If you can make (very) loose patties, there is enough flour, otherwise add some more so there is a slightly paste-like quality to it. Heat vegetable oil in a large frying pan on medium-high and gently place loosely formed handfuls of mixture in the oil (my pan fit about four patties in one go). You can squish and flatten the patties a bit to help them keep their shape but I found the egg held them together fairly well. When the bottom is golden, flip over and cook until golden on the other side. Drain on paper towel and sprinkle with sea salt. Serve with a wedge of lemon and the carrot salad (or in a burger as I will be trying next week!).

Moroccan carrot salad – only slightly adapted from Deb Perleman’s smittenkitchen.com http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2010/05/carrot-salad-with-harissa-feta-and-mint/

My only changes were that I used multicoloured carrots (which looked beautiful) and grated them finely in the food processor. I also doubled the dressing but had only1.5x the carrot and it was a fantastic level of spice and heat. Fantastic recipe that I will definitely be making again.

Update

So this post is not all that food-related but a bit of an update about what I’ve been doing up in Far North QLD plus some notable food experiences.

–       I went to a bull and bike show (kind of like a rodeo) and had a deliciously naughty sandwich. White bread, thickly buttered, stuffed with thick rich coleslaw and perfect chips. Plus a Coke. Not the healthiest dinner but it was fantastic. Image

–       I did well in my exams (first class honours), which I was really happy with! Had dinner out at a local pub which was tasty but at least 4 times what I actually could eat in one sitting.

–       I have been eating mangoes by the truckload. Mangoes are everywhere, especially on the ground. For someone from Melbourne who has paid $4 per mango it is amazing to see the volume of wasted fruit.

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–       I have eaten some wonderful egg salad sandwiches with freshly laid eggs (i.e. still warm from the chicken!)

–       The clinic I am at has been busy and I have gotten to do a lot – I have been doing heaps of procedures (suturing, injections, wound care, removal of stitches etc) and have been working quite independently in consultations.

–       This weekend I am making a tropical trifle with mango and pineapple for the clinic Christmas party; if it’s good I’ll post it up!

Spaghetti and Lentil-Eggplant-Ricotta “Meatballs”

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This recipe was inspired by Sara Forte’s (sproutedkitchen.com) Lentil ‘Meatballs’ with lemon pesto, which, while delicious, are quite hearty, and I was looking for something light that I could throw in with spaghetti. I find pasta is such an easy go-to meal on days I get home late from the hospital, but wanted to find a way to add a bit more (vegetarian) protein. This recipe takes a bit of time but makes a big batch which freezes well so you have heaps of ‘meatballs’ on hand that reheat easily in a bit of tomato sauce.

Lentil-Eggplant-Ricotta “Meatballs”

2.5 cups cooked lentils (I like Puy, but plain brown lentils would work here too)

1 large eggplant

1 small zucchini, grated

3 cloves garlic, diced

Pinch of dried chilli and dried oregano

250g ricotta cheese

3/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup grated pecorino or parmesan cheese

A couple of basil leaves, torn

2 eggs

Preheat oven to 180˚C. Cut the eggplant in half lengthways and score it in a criss-cross pattern deeply (but not piercing the skin). Rub with a generous amount of olive oil. Bake in the oven until the flesh is soft, around 45 mins. Scoop out the flesh and smash to a chunky paste.

Saute the grated zucchini with the garlic, a little olive oil and the dried chilli and oregano until the zucchini has softened.

Puree the lentils in a food processor (or mash by hand) leaving some a bit chunky.

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and season. Roll into balls about the size of a tablespoon. The mixture should be quite wet, but if it won’t form balls at all add some more breadcrumbs. Brush the tops of the balls with olive oil and bake for 10 minutes or until they have some colour.

When they have cooled use them in the dish below or freeze in snap locks for later use in spaghetti, meatball subs etc.

Spaghetti with Lentil-Eggplant-Ricotta ‘Meatballs’

This is not really a recipe but anyway:

Make a basic tomato sauce with garlic, dried oregano, passata and a splash of red wine vinegar; set aside. Cook spaghetti according to packet instructions. When nearly ready place your ‘meatballs’ in the tomato sauce to let them soak up some tomatoey goodness. Top the spaghetti with a couple of ‘meatballs’, as much sauce as you like and a generous grating of parmesan or pecorino. Add a couple of fresh basil leaves and a good sprinkle of black pepper to finish it off.