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.

 

 

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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