Millet Stir-Fry

 

Millet stir fry

This recipe is so simple yet so tasty that I just had to share it.

Millet is a whole-grain that does not contain gluten, the protein complex found in wheat and its derivatives, including kamut, spelt, barley, rye, pasta and couscous.

When I use whole-grains, I try to focus on the non-gluten ones, mostly millet, amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, rice and oats.

While I am not fundamentally against gluten, I do think that we consume it in huge doses, and that many people would be better off reducing their consumption of wheat and its derivatives as it is often difficult to digest.

One of my favorite whole grains is actually millet – it is similar to couscous in look and consistency but has a nuttier, more complex flavor. It is also a good source of B-vitamins, magnesium and phosphorus.

I usually make a big batch of whatever whole grain I make and then use it over several days: As a porridge in the morning (heated with some almond milk and topped with fruit and nuts/seeds and spices) as well as in salads or stir-frys.

Here is a simple stir-fry you can make using any whole grain.

Ingredients:

Cooked whole grain (preferably soaked in water overnight or for a few hours before cooking – if you don’t have time to do this at least rinse the whole grain well before cooking) – follow the instructions on the packaging

Steamed or boiled vegetables – here I used broccoli, carrots and zucchini

Pine seeds

Olive oil

Curry powder

 

Method

Cook the whole grain (here I used millet) and vegetables separately.

Heat a little olive oil in a wok and add the pine seeds. This gives them a lovely flavor that is a lot more interesting than raw pine seeds. Once the pine seeds are lightly browned, add the millet and vegetables then season with some curry powder and salt to taste.

Add some coriander or other herb as garnish.

Enjoy as a side or main dish!

Frozen Banana Soft Serve

My big aha moment this summer is this: Bananas freeze really well because they are made up of less water than other fruits. The recipe below is very simple and makes for a deliciously creamy, healthy treat on a hot summer day.

Enjoy!

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Watermelon Salad

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My family and I spent almost every summer growing up visiting my extended family in Jordan.

Being so scarce the rest of the year meant we were invited for lunches and dinners almost every day. But the nights we didn’t have anything special and just stayed home with my Grandmother always meant one thing: Watermelon and white cheese for dinner.

I loved this dinner. So simple, yet refreshing. And no other fruit reminds me of summers in Jordan quite like watermelon.

I pulled together this slightly more sophisticated version of my Grandmother’s dinner to make it into more of a real meal. The tastes go really well together, combining the sweetness of the watermelon with the saltiness of the cheese and olives, the sourness of the lime, the bitterness of the arugula and the pungent taste of the red onion and oregano.

A side note: According to the ancient science of Ayurveda, in order for  a meal to be balanced and satisfying, it is essential for all the tastes mentioned above to be present. This can even help reduce cravings for foods like sweets. You can find our more about the six Ayurvedic tastes here.

INGREDIENTS: 

1 small watermelon (to avoid the seeds)

1 small red onion 

Black olives

Handful of arugula leaves

Feta cheese (or even better, Haloumi cheese if you can find it)

Drizzle of olive oil

Juice of 2 limes

Dash of sea salt & pepper

Dried oregano or zaatar mix

 

METHOD: 

Chop all ingredients and place together in a bowl. Dress with lime or lemon juice and olive oil and season with herbs.

Enjoy on a hot summer’s day!

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Arabian Almond Balls (Gluten & Dairy free)

Arabian Balls

These Arabian Almond balls, based on this recipe, are really quick to make and do not even need baking.

I grind almonds with their skin – but you could also buy already ground almonds or use ground almonds without the skin for a more subtle taste. I used almond oil which I thought worked perfectly but if you do not have this you can also use coconut oil or probably even olive oil.

The Arabic taste really comes from the orange blossom water and lightly toasting the sesame seeds takes the taste experience to a whole new level.

Ingredients

2 cups ground almonds 

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Pinch of unrefined salt

2 tbsp almond oil 

3-4 tbsp maple syrup or honey

1 tbsp orange blossom water

1/2 cup sesame seeds, lightly toasted

Method

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl then add the maple syrup or honey, orange blossom water and mix. Form balls in whatever size you want and roll them in the lightly toasted sesame seeds. Store in the fridge.

Enjoy with some fresh mint tea!

Zoodles (Zucchini noodles)

Zucchini spaghetti

I mentioned my spiralizer, the latest addition to my kitchen in a previous post (which I ordered here). A spiralizer works a little like a pencil sharpener – you put the vegetable in it and turn it around, creating a spaghetti like result. I have tried it with carrots and zucchini and both work really well. The wider the vegetable, the better it works.

I wanted to put it to the real test: To taste whether zoodles (zucchini noodles) could actually replace spaghetti with a normal tomato sauce. And I am happy to report that both my husband and I thought it tasted as good as the real thing because the taste really comes from the sauce anyway! So here is an alternative to noodles or spaghetti if you are trying to avoid gluten, eat less white flour or simply wanting to add more vegetables to your diet.

Method: 

1. Make the zoodles, then steam or boil them for just a few minutes so they are a little softer.

2. Cut vegetables – I used shitake mushrooms, broccoli, red pepper and carrots. Boil or steam the veggies.

3. Fry onion and garlic in a little olive oil, then add the tomato sauce. Salt, pepper and add herbs to taste (I used dried oregano).

4. Add the vegetables to the tomato sauce.

5. Serve over the zoodles.

BTW – Tomato sauces are always a good place to sneak in more vegetables. Even using onion and garlic can make a difference nutritionally!

Here are some ‘making of’ pics of the zoodles!


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Morning rituals + 2 easy breakfasts

I really believe that the way you start your morning massively influences the rest of your day. If you wake up with an angry alarm going off and then rush through your morning, eating breakfast on the run and running to catch the bus to work – how do you expect the rest of your day to be? And because your every day eventually becomes your life, changing your relationship to mornings can make a massive difference to how you live.

I know a lot of people don’t consider themselves morning people. I do not consider myself a morning person, yet my morning routine has now become such a vital part of my day that I feel something is off when I don’t do it.

Morning routines can involve meditation, exercise, yoga, writing or being in nature. The key is to do something only for yourself, even if it involves waking up 10 minutes before everyone else at home to have this time for yourself.

How about trying to make just 5 minutes of me-time first thing in the morning this week, just to see if it makes any difference?  

Another vital part of mornings, is of course, breakfast. Most of the people I work with have packed lives and often end up eating out for lunch and dinner. Breakfast is the one meal they can really control, so we put in that extra effort to make sure it is healthy since it influences 30% of the day’s nutrients. Even more importantly, recent research quoted by Dr Andrew Weil shows that a healthy breakfast

…improves your metabolic response to subsequent meals throughout the day. This means that one consequence of eating a healthy breakfast is that no matter what you choose for lunch (and possibly dinner), your body will handle it a little better than it would have if you ate something made of processed grains and sugars, or skipped breakfast all together.

I already shared my current smoothie obsession which is a very versatile breakfast option, and here are two even quicker options. They are both made using whole grains which are a much better option to the typical, processed breakfast cereal. You can also make a bigger quantity and keep it in the fridge to eat over several mornings.

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5 minute overnight oats

What about you, what is your morning currently like? Are you willing to try waking up just 5 minutes early this week to create your own morning ritual? 

PS – If this blog post left you hugging your sweetened cereal box, refusing to let it go, read this article :)

 

Spring pesto (vegan)

 

Spring Pesto

I have a confession. This was the first time that I made pesto. Ever. And I was really surprised and how easy something that tastes so sophisticated can be!

Pesto is normally made by blending together pine seeds, parmesan cheese, basil, garlic and olive oil but I wanted to try making a version without cheese.  My husband had the idea of adding in sun-dried tomatoes (which he loves) and I thought of adding some leeks and wild bear’s garlic which are currently in season. The dried tomatoes are already quite salty, so there was no need to add any salt. Exact quantities depend on taste, so you just need to keep tasting and adding ingredients until you are happy!

The result? A delicious pesto which can be used as a sauce in several ways.

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Here are the two ways I served it:

Day 1: Salad leaves, quinoa and zucchini noodles topped with spring pesto, grilled chickpeas and spring onion.

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The zucchini noodles were made using the latest addition to my kitchen – a spiralizer (thank you, Julia)! It feels like you are sharpening the zucchini, creating very long, curly pieces which have the feel of spaghetti.

Day 2: With pasta

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The following day my Italian rooted husband wanted to try the pesto in a more traditional way – with pasta.

Pasta cooking tip: Cooking it only until it is al dente and not fully cooked actually makes the pasta healthier, because the Glycemic Index (GI) is lower. The Italians are right about this one!

So there you have it, a simple Spring Pesto. Next time, I will make a bigger batch and store it in a jar in the fridge to try with even more dishes!

Healthier Hummus, No Bread

hummus recipe and ingredientsI love hummus but in an effort to create an even healthier hummus, I wanted to find a way of replacing the traditional pita bread or flat Arabic bread that is traditionally eaten with it.  That’s because most of us eat waaaay too much of is bread and baked goods. Considered a staple by many, it is easy to eat a bread-like food at every meal – for example toast in the morning, a sandwich for lunch and a pizza or quiche for dinner.

And while bread seems innocent enough, bread made from refined flour is harmful to our health, weight and well-being. A good rule of thumb is to try squashing a piece of bread to the smallest possible size – the smaller it becomes, the less healthy the bread. Bread made of real grains does not lose volume like fluffy white bread does.

Using vegetable sticks (raw or steamed) is a delicious way of dipping into hummus, adding more veggies into your diet and getting rid of the bread.

1. Cut veggies into sticks and steam or boil for a few minutes so that they are still crisp. You can also use raw vegetables like cucumbers and celery and add tomatoes and olives which go well with humus too.

2. Rinse a can of chickpeas. If you have trouble digesting chickpeas, you can rub them between your hands to remove the skin – this makes them easier to digest.

3. Put the rinsed chickpeas in a food processor or blender and add:

– about 1 tablespoon tahini (sesame paste)

– juice of 1 lemon

– a dash of unrefined salt

– 1-2 cloves garlic

– a little water and olive oil, depending on how liquid you would like it.

– a dash of cumin or paprika

4. Blend everything, adding more water if needed.

5. Serve with the vegetables.

How about removing the bread or baked goods in just one of your meals? 

And  if you want to jazz up your hummus, instead of chickpeas, try using any of the below: 

Hummus Original Ideas

 

 

Upgraded Oatmeal Cookies

healthier oatmeal cookies

Oatmeal cookies have always been my favorite cookie. I think it’s something about the nutty taste and crunch mixed with the sweetness of raisins that I really love…

The original recipe I grew up with calls for the usual suspects: Butter, sugar, white flour, eggs. But in the spirit of upgrading I came up with this recipe which is free of refined sugar, refined flour, eggs and dairy AND includes healthy ingredients such as whole grains, nuts and seeds. The best part is how versatile and easy it is – you can change or experiment with the ingredients according to your mood and what you have in your cupboard!

Ingredients

1 cup wholegrain oats or any other wholegrain cereal flakes (can also be a mix of both oats and other flakes)

1 cup whole wheat flour, rye flour or a mix of gluten-free flours such as brown rice, buckwheat, coconut etc

1 cup ground almonds or hazelnuts or a mix of both

½ cup shredded coconut

½ tsp. unrefined salt

1/2 cup raisins or chopped dates

½ cup maple syrup or brown rice syrup

½ cup oil (such as olive oil, canola or coconut oil)

Some additional sprinkles for added taste and health benefits such as chia seeds, amaranth, wheat germ, sesame, pumpkin or sunflower seeds. You can also add spice such as cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamon.

Method

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

2. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

3. Mix the wet ingredients and stir into the dry ingredients.

4. Form small balls and place on a cookie sheet, pressing the balls down with your fingers. The flatter, the crispier.

5. Bake for 12 minutes or until crispy.

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Superfood Salad

I threw together this simple salad at the last minute the other night and realized only later that most of the ingredients are worthy of superfood status. Here’s why:

BEETS: A good source of dietary fiber, potassium, folate, iron, vitamin C, manganese, zinc and copper. They are also loaded with antioxidants and are currently making a comeback as a superfood.

ONIONS: Not very exotic, but onions are super healthy, containing a combination of flavonoids and sulfur. Onions are anti-inflammatory, boost the immune system and are very potent in cancer prevention among other benefits.

AMARANTH: I sprinkled a little of this tiny seed for some added protein and calcium. Amaranth is also a good source of iron, magnesium, phosphorous and manganese.

WALNUTS: Walnuts are the only nut that contains omega-3 fatty acids and they also contain twice the antioxidants as an equivalent amount of any other nuts. I keep walnuts in my desk drawer at work and snack on a handful almost every day.

GOJI BERRIES: These small, dried berries are powerful antioxidants and may help prevent cancer, heart disease and boost the immune system.

APPLE CIDER VINEGAR DRESSING: In its unfiltered, unpasteurized state, Apple Cider Vinegar (or ACV to its friends) is a great alternative to other salad dressings, particularly to help digestion and detoxifying. Other benefits of ACV can be found here.

SALT, PEPPER AND OLIVE OIL TO TASTE. 

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Carob Chia Pudding of Love

In health food circles, carob is often seen as the poor cousin to cacao – touted as a a caffeine-free substitute but not much else.

Carob deserves to be known and loved in its own right, both for the taste and health benefits. I think I feel this kinship to carob powder because we are both originally from the Middle East – only carob grows on the pods of trees.

Carob is very soothing to the stomach and is a good source of calcium, magnesium, iron, fiber and protein. It also contains vitamins A, B, and D. You can buy the powder in any health food store  – I add it mostly to smoothies but it can also be used in desserts such as the Carob Chia Pudding of Love I made for my husband on Valentine’s Day.

RECIPE:

Put 1 cup almond or coconut milk

1/4 cup chia seeds

1-2 tablespoons carob powder

5 medjool dates (pitted)

A sprinkle of vanilla powder (optional)

 

Put all the ingredients in a blender or food processor. Pulse, then pour into glasses and place in the fridge to chill for at least 1-2 hours. Top with cacao nibs for some crunch before serving.

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Roasted Winter Vegetables – Step by Step

Roasted Winter Vegetables

This is a tasty and healthy addition to any main dish and a great way of using winter vegetables, even if they don’t always seem very approachable at first glance!

Choose root vegetable such as sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, black salsify, Jerusalem artichoke, celery root, beets, potatoes etc. You can use them without even knowing their names! You can also add squash or pumpkin and roughly chop a few onions to add more taste.

Roasting these vegetables is a great way of bringing out their natural sweetness and giving them a more complex flavor that even people who don’t normally eat vegetables will like!

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.

2. Wash/scrub, peel and dice the veggies into similar size cubes. Some varieties of squash like butternut squash or winter squash (potimarron) don’t need to be peeled.

3. Put all the vegetables in a bowl and add olive oil, some unrefined salt and any spice or herb you like. I usually add a mix of turmeric, cayenne pepper and paprika. Use you hands to really get in there and coat all the vegetables evenly. If you have time, leave the vegetables to marinate so they take on the taste even more. If you prefer, you can add fresh or dried herbs such as rosemary or thyme instead of spices. You can also add some whole or crushed garlic to the mix.

4. Pour the vegetables onto a lined baking tray or large oven dish and separate them out so they are not too close together.

5. Place tray or dish in the middle of the oven.

6. As they are cooking, stir the vegetables around a few times so they cook evenly on all sides. Total cooking time should take about 15-25 minutes, depending on the vegetables used and the size of the cubes. Just before they are done, you can also add some pressed garlic and stir.

That’s it! Enjoy while still hot as a side or light meal.