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Vegan “Meat” Balls

Hello, everyone!  I meant to post this before Christmas and then got a little bit sidetracked with, um, Christmas.  Seems like a long time ago now…

My brother and his partner are currently giving veganism a go and so, as Christmas was at their house, we had to come up with something to contribute to the dinner that night.  Normally, this wouldn’t be such an issue – Mum and I are already vegetarian – but because I have kidney issues, a lot of vegan-friendly foods are off the menu.  No chickpea casserole or lentil burgers for me!  So it became a little trickier to figure out what to bring.  And I didn’t want to wuss out and bring something just for me to eat.

Mum was in charge of dessert, so I told her to just make apple pie which is easy to do (just substitute any butter in the pastry with a non-dairy spread) and we served it with soy ice-cream.  Simple!  So she got off lightly.

I had to figure something else out for a savoury dish.  So I came up with these vegan “meat” balls.  I don’t have an exact recipe – I was too busy testing and mixing to actually write down any measurements – but you will get the general gist of things here.  It’s a bit of a keep-adding-stuff-until-you-get-it-right kind of recipe anyway.

Start with the binding agent, which in this recipe is flax seed meal.  Add three tablespoons of water to one of flax meal and mix together in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Now you need a large eggplant, chopped into small-ish pieces.  Chuck in a frypan and saute with a little bit of oil.  To stop it drying out, add a splash of water now and again.  You’re going to want to cook it for a while until….

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…it goes shmushy.  Y’know, all soft and mushy and no longer holding its shape.  Shmushy.  Oh and while you’re doing that, blanch some broccoli florets in boiling water for about 3 minutes until it is tender but NOT shmushy.  I used about 400g broccoli for this.  Drain it and set aside while the eggplant is cooking.

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Into a food processor, chuck the broccoli and eggplant, flax meal, five chopped spring onions (or you can use a small brown onion, chopped and sauteed with the eggplant), 200g of pine nuts, and about a cup of quick porridge oats.  I also added a little vege stock powder for seasoning and some smoked paprika.  Pulse in the processor, until it forms a sticky, combined blob. If it seems a little too sticky and wet, add some more oats or, if you’re not me, you could probably chuck in some besan (chickpea) flour.

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Now, roll the mixture into little balls – about the size of a golf ball.  Place on a baking tray and sprinkle with a little more smoked paprika if desired.

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Bake for 25 – 30 mins in a 180 C oven.  Turn halfway through cooking time so they’re golden on all sides.  They should be quite firm and crispy on the outside.

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Serve with a nice tomato sauce (like you would regular meatballs).  Yum!

These balls freeze really well and are delicious cold as well as hot.  You can use them in place of mince in a “meatloaf” or burgers.  As I said, my recipe is not exact – just go by feel and taste.  The eggplant lends a nice meaty taste to the dish, but you could substitute everything else for something you prefer.  Eg grated carrot instead of broccoli, breadcrumbs instead of oats, etc.  And of course you could use egg instead of the flax, if you’re not vegan.  Anything goes here!  Just experiment a bit 🙂

Hope you give these a try and maybe invent your own version/recipe (using my crappy version as a blue-print).  This recipe makes enough for a whole family and has the added bonus of not looking like they contain vegies (so fuss-pots will eat them too).

Thank you for stopping by x

 

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Bandwagon Salad

Happy New Year, everyone.  Apologies for not posting sooner.  Lots of drama happening and I have had neither the time nor emotional energy to blog anything at all.  I won’t go into it, but life is so tricky sometimes.

Anyway, moving on…  This week, I decided to jump on the whole “salad-in-a-jar” bandwagon.  I have seen them everywhere on Pinterest and Instagram, in magazines and on blogs and they always look so pretty.  You do, after all, eat with your eyes (supposedly) and it’s nice to have something so appetising waiting for you in the fridge (as opposed to standing in front of it with the door open thinking “what the heck can I make for lunch?”). This is a fad I can get behind.  It makes sense and it is a good way to make sure I am eating healthily as much as possible, with minimum fuss.

So, I’m not going to re-invent the wheel here for you.  There are literally thousands of jar recipes on the internet and in cook books.  It’s not really brain science, and the only thing you need to remember is to have the dressing at the bottom of the jar followed by “hard” vegetables, ie those that won’t wilt or go weird when in contact with the dressing.  For this, think carrots, capsicum, cucumber, snowpeas, celery etc.  Then you layer the ingredients towards the top, usually ending with the “soft” vegetables, such as lettuce, rocket, herbs etc.

You can include grains, pasta, rice and beans, as well as some other protein foods like canned fish, chicken, nuts, tofu or cheese.  They can be prepared up to 5 days in advance, depending on the ingredients you’ve chosen, and should stay nice and fresh.  Makes lunches for the week simple and easy – you just grab and go.

I have used quite large jars ( I couldn’t find medium-sized ones) and so my first salads were a tad enormous, but you can really use any size that suits you, as long as the mouth of the jar is reasonably wide to enable filling and then emptying.  When you’re ready to eat, just give the jar a good shake and tip the contents into a bowl, tossing with a fork to evenly distribute the dressing.  I know some people eat straight out of the jar but that would be very messy I think (especially if I was the one doing the eating) – but it’s your call.

For a few “recipe” ideas, and more detailed instructions, try these websites :

Organise Yourself Skinny HERE

Eat This HERE

Wholefully HERE

 Let me know if you have any favourite jar salads of your own – I’d love to hear read your ideas.  Do you make your own dressing or buy ready-made ones?  I’m also going to make a few “treat” jars for some lunches – like, yoghurt with muesli crumbles and fruit.  Geez, I’m already off the salad and thinking about my sweet tooth.  Typical!

Thanks for popping in – have a lovely day 🙂

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Cauliflower and Feta Fritters

Everyone is so into cauliflower right now.  It seems everywhere I look there’s cauliflower rice, pizza bases made with cauliflower, and cauliflower mash to replace the good old potato variety.  I have a slight issue with this humble brassica – it gives me tummy ache – and I have to be very careful about eating it.  Sometimes I can have it and it causes no problems but, other times, it KILLS ME and leaves me writhing about in agony wishing for death.  It’s not pretty.
That said, I have been craving some cauliflower action for the last few weeks and thought I would give it a gentle try.  My renal diet is so restrictive and I am always looking for fruit and veg alternatives to give me some variety.  So, I made these fritters.  I was bad and fried them (I never fry anything) because the batter was fairly wet, but I used only a spray of oil.  They cooked super quickly and were easy to flip etc.  Very tasty indeed.  And only a slight tummy ache afterwards (note to self : give up on cauliflower!) which was totally worth it, and may not have even been related…  Try them for yourself – you could substitute any vegies into the basic batter mix, which is what I’m going to do next time for a more
pain-free meal! 🙂

Cauliflower & Feta Fritters

Ingredients

salt & pepper
olive oil
1 head cauliflower, trimmed into small florets

2 eggs
½ cup wholemeal flour
¼ cup milk
1/2 cup crumbed feta cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
½ garlic clove, crushed
2 tsp dried parsley

Method

Spread the florets of cauliflower out on a baking tray.  Drizzle with a little oil and season with salt and pepper (don’t go overboard with the salt – the feta has plenty in it). Bake in oven at 200 degrees Celsius for about 20 minutes, until cauliflower is starting to char and become soft.  Remove from oven and allow to cool down.  Tip onto a chopping board and roughly chop.

Combine other ingredients in a large bowl and add cauliflower to form a batter. Mix well.

Heat a fry pan and spray with a little cooking oil.  Drop  spoonfuls of mixture onto fry pan and fry on both sides until firm and golden brown (this takes only a few minutes).  Place on kitchen paper to drain off any excess oil and repeat with remaining batter.

Serve with wedges of lime or some salsa or anything you like!  This recipe makes about 12 small-medium fritters.

Enjoy!

PS If you happen to be photographing your culinary efforts, I strongly recommend paying close attention to what you’re doing.  This way, you don’t trip over and throw the entire plate of fritters all over your freshly-mopped floor, like I did.  You wouldn’t know it from the photo, but my fritters were thrown far and wide across my lounge room in a spectacular display of clumsiness.  See?  It’s the cauliflower…it hates me 🙂

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Savoury Porridge

I am trying to improve myself this year. I have failed miserably for most of 2016 (mostly because, through one thing or another, I’ve been a bit miserable, to be honest!) and haven’t really achieved anything. I’m sleeping badly (or not at all), I’m eating badly (or, again, not at all) and exercise has completely left the building – or, at least, it would have done if hadn’t just collapsed into a lazy lump on the couch. Basically, I have fallen in to a bit of a slump. A schlump, if you will. It’s not good, and I know it.

One thing I have been relying on too much is sugar. I went for years not having much sugar at all and now I have not only fallen off the wagon but completely lost sight of it as it hurtles away, possibly with a wheel missing and the rest of it on fire. I worry about getting diabetes and weight gain and other health issues that the sweet little demon causes. So I need to stop. And really stop – no cheating, missy!

I’m never going to be one of those people who avoids sugar altogether – let’s just be realistic here for a moment – but I should try and cut down and limit it to a healthy amount. So it’s more of a treat than a daily indulgence.

One thing I have always found a bit difficult, in regards to avoiding sugar, is the whole breakfast scenario. I love cereal – I could eat it for every meal. Give me a bowl of muesli and I am a happy girl. Cheerios? Yep – love ’em! (but have recently weaned myself off them). I eat porridge a lot too and try to add as little sugar as possible, but it’s still SUGAR. I could have toast for breakfast or an egg, but I don’t want to have those things everyday. In the old days I would have happily scarfed down a bowl of baked beans, but I can’t have them regularly now, because of my kidneys.

So, what’s a girl to do? She tries savoury porridge, that’s what she, um, do. And, let me tell you, it’s delicious. Satisfying and warming and yummy. Easy to make and you can make a batch and then reheat it later, or the next day. I actually look forward to getting up in the morning now. Well, sort of. Porridge can only work so many miracles, after all.

Savoury Porridge is a bit trendy at the moment, but that’s ok. It might be nice for me to be on trend for once, and I think this particular option might be one I stick with for a while, because it’s versatile and adaptable and doesn’t require me to have a whole bunch of ingredients on hand. I can have it for breakfast, lunch or dinner and not feel guilty about it at any time of day. If I want to amp up the decadent factor, I can add cheese or something fancy like truffle oil (note to self : buy truffle oil!) or I can leave it plain and not muck about with it too much.  A poached egg on top is divine
(as is anything topped with a poached egg, to be fair).

The recipe I am using here is Mark Bittman‘s Savoury Oatmeal with Scallions and Soy Sauce from Serious Eats.  Ok, so we call scallions spring onions over here and we say porridge instead of oatmeal…big deal.   Still tastes yummo-licious.  Give it a try – it really does make a nice change and it is healthy and super quick to make, even if you’re like me and hopeless in the mornings.  I added some flakes of nori to my porridge, but you can leave that out if you like.  It just adds some extra umami flavour and interest.

Ingredients

1 Cup Rolled Oats
2 Cups Water
2 Teaspoons Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon Chopped Spring Onion + 1 Teaspoon Chopped for Garnish
Sprinkle of Sea Salt
1 Teaspoon Nori Flakes

Combine oats, water and salt in a medium saucepan.
Bring to boil and then turn down to low.
Cook until water almost absorbed.
Turn off heat, add spring onions and soy sauce (and nori flakes if adding).

Serve with extra spring  onion as garnish.

Enjoy! 🙂

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Haloumi & Zucchini Fritters/Patties

I have been meaning to make haloumi fritters for ages, because I keep seeing them everywhere, on menus and in magazines.  I finally got around to trying them this week.  Mine is a fairly basic recipe, to which you could add “extras” like chopped vegie bacon, sauteed onion, spring onion or sundried tomato.  Experiment with whatever you have in the fridge (that’s pretty much what I do – I’m not very organised!).

This recipe makes about 12 medium sized fritters.  They’re good hot or cold, so great for tucking in lunchboxes.  I’ve baked mine, because I don’t really fry anything, but you could certainly fry them if you prefer that method.

Ingredients

2 medium zucchinis, grated
100g haloumi cheese, grated
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
2 eggs, beaten
Tbs chopped dill or parsley
Tbs sumac
Salt and pepper to season
(go easy on the salt as there is plenty in the haloumi)

Method

Preheat oven to 190 C

Squeeze as much excess liquid out of the grated zucchini as you can.  Mix with haloumi in a large bowl, with breadcrumbs and beaten eggs.  Mix herbs and seasoning through the mixture.  If it’s a little wet, you can add some more breadcrumbs or some rolled oats to soak up the excess moisture.

Line a baking tray with baking paper.  Using a large spoon, drop about 1/4 cup of mixture on to tray to form each fritter.  Leave a little room for spreading.  Bake for 30-40 minutes until brown and crispy on the outside.

Serve as a snack with some herbed yoghurt and salsa, or have for brekky with a nice poached egg and some mushrooms.

Enjoy 🙂

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Beetroot Risotto with Feta and Peas

I watch MasterChef a lot.  It’s a yearly addiction and probably explains why I am always thinking about food.  Or cooking food.  Which then leads to eating food.  One of the things that is a recurring theme on MasterChef is the humble risotto.  They call it the “Dish of Death” because no one can successfully make one that the judges deem worthy of them.  So many people have tried and failed.  Mushroom risottos, chicken and asparagus risottos, cheesy risottos – they all suck (apparently).

I have never really understood this because I find risotto very easy to make (and even easier to eat, but let’s not talk about that right now).  Take this Beetroot Risotto.  Delicious.  It is totally worth the bright pink fingers you end up with (unless you wear gloves of course, like a sensible person) and is quite a visually impressive dish to create if you want to look good in front of guests.  My rather haphazard recipe is as follows :

Ingredients 

4 medium beetroots, trimmed of stalks and roots
1 litre vegetable stock
1 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced (or 1Tbs minced garlic)
1 1/3 cups (300g) arborio rice
1/3 cup water mixed with juice of half a lemon (or you can use 1/3 cup white wine)
Few sprigs of fresh thyme or Tarragon (I used a bit of both)
1/2 cup frozen baby peas, cooked
Crumbled feta and chopped parsley to garnish

Wrap each of the beetroot individually in foil and place in oven on a baking paper-lined tray.  Bake for approximately 45 minutes at 200 C until beetroot is tender.

Meanwhile, bring stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat, pop a lid on to keep it warm, and set aside.

Heat  olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan on medium heat. Add onion and garlic, thyme or tarragon; cook gently, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until onion softens and turns transparent. Add rice; stir to coat grains with oil.
Increase heat to medium–high.

Add reserved stock one-third at a time, stirring occasionally and allowing rice to absorb stock between additions. Add water + lemon juice in last batch of stock.

Rub off beetroot skin and discard. Dice beetroot into small chunks; set aside. Once rice is al dente, stir in peas and beetroot (the more your stir it in, the brighter red the risotto becomes).

Serve risotto topped with crumbled feta and chopped parsley.

Serves 4.

Enjoy 🙂

PS In your face, MasterChef!

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Ricotta and Kale Gnudi

Ricotta and Kale Gnudi

This is an easy and delicious dish you can make when you want something pasta-ish (cheesy, saucy) but don’t want pasta.  I don’t eat pasta at all so this recipe is a great substitute when I’m hanging out for some comfort food that won’t give me a tummy ache afterwards.  It’s fairly light, especially if you use low-fat ricotta, and really tasty.

The original recipe called for spinach, but I can’t eat that so I use chopped, cooked kale instead – works exactly the same in this dish.

Ricotta and Kale Gnudi

Ingredients

3/4 cup ricotta, drained
2 egg yolks
3/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons plain flour
1 Teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup cooked kale, drained and chopped very finely
Extra flour for rolling

Method

Couldn’t be easier – just mix all the ingredients together until combined, roll the mixture into walnut-sized balls (this is the messy, fiddly bit), roll them in a little flour to prevent sticking, and then drop them into boiling water.  The gnudie will float to the surface when done (approximately 5 minutes or so).

Serve with some tomato sauce and an extra sprinkle of parmesan if you like.  I like a little side salad to go with it (but then I have a little side salad with everything. Here,  I have used rocket because I am obsessed with the stuff) but you could pair it with anything you fancy.

This recipe serves two piggly-wigglies.

Voila!  🙂

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