Lots of Taste Quinoa Salad

Quinoa Salad_5 tastes

This is one of my favorite ways to create quick meals that also taste great: By combining the five tastes that are naturally present on our taste buds: Sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami.  I go into more detail on this in my online program Healthy in a Hurry but I wanted to share this Quinoa Salad because it is so simple and tasty at the same time!

Taking pleasure in what we eat is not a luxury – it is a necessity in order to feel satisfied by a meal. If a meal is bland, we will often eat more of it or need something sweet after a meal. I call this biological need for pleasure allowing our taste buds to have a party. And what better way for them to party than by combining a food from all five tastes in one dish?

This is what I have done in this dish, combining something sweet (chestnuts + raisins), salty (salt + capers), sour (apple cider vinegar), umami (olive oil, onion, dried tomatoes) and bitter (endives + ground cumin). You can always substitute any of these food with something else from the same taste profile. For example, if you don’t like chestnuts, you can leave them out and add more raisins. If you don’t like endives, you can use kale or arugula instead which are also bitter. And you can always adjust the proportions and seasonings to suit your taste, adding more or less sour for example, as taste is always individual.

This quantity makes about 6 servings, and you can leave it in the fridge for 2-3 days. If you are adding a leafy green, add it when serving rather than storing it with the other ingredients as it will wilt.

Ingredients

1 cup uncooked quinoa or millet or buckwheat

200g chestnuts (I buy them frozen)

2 leeks

1 endive

8 dried tomatoes (buy them without oil)

6 teaspoons capers

1 red onion

4 tablespoons raisins

2 tablespoons ground cumin

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

6 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

salt + pepper

Method

Cook the quinoa, ideally soaking it for about 12 hours beforehand. – find out how to cook quinoa here.

Chop the leeks all the ingredients and combine in a bowl – find out how to clean and chop leeks here.

Steam or boil the leeks and chestnuts for a few minutes so they are cooked but not mushy.

Chop the rest of the ingredients so that everything is about the same size. This will prevent any one taste from dominating and will allow all the tastes to harmoniously come together.

Prepare the dressing and mix with all the ingredients in a bowl.

Adjust taste and seasoning until you find the perfect combination for you.

Enjoy!

 

 

First Bite Experience + Sweet Potato Stir-Fry

sweet potato stir-fry

I want to share something really simple that just might transform your experience of your next meal.

I call it The First Bite Experience.

It’s that burst of taste and pleasure that comes across most strongly from the first bite of food but that we are often too distracted to truly notice.

And when we don’t really notice that first bite or any bite after it, our body doesn’t actually register that it has been fed, and starts asking for MORE food, or craves something sweet after the meal.

So one way to avoid overeating or cravings is to simply start by really being present for that first bite of food.

To really take the time to savour that first bite.

Here’s how:

Make sure you are sitting down. Close your eyes if you want. Put a mouthful of food in your mouth. Fully taste it. Do you like the taste? Do you enjoy the crunch or smoothness of the food? Can you taste all the ingredients in it? Try to give this first bite your full, undivided attention as if you were tasting this food for the first time. There is no right or wrong way to do this – simply pay attention.

You do not need to eat the whole meal like this – simply try to remember to bring your full attention to that crucial first bite. Even if you are eating with other people, you can still be attentive to the first bite you take – although you might not want to close your eyes for it!

I would love to hear your experience if you try it – please comment below!

And if you would like more simple, actionable steps to more mindful eating like this one, check out my online Mindful Eating Experiment!

Mindful Eating flyer

Sweet Potato Stir-Fry

This is the perfect recipe to try the First Bite Experience with because sweet potatoes, when you really taste them, have a very satisfying sweet taste. The combination of tastes and textures in this recipe is also incredibly interesting to the tastebuds, particularly due to the umami combo of garlic / onion / Feta / olives. If you lightly toast the pumpkin seeds, this also makes them more umami and lends a more enticing texture.

4 sweet potatoes – medium sized (about 500g)

1 tablespoons coconut oil

1 teaspoon turmeric

2 cloves minced garlic

2 onions or scallions, chopped

200g Feta cheese, diced AND/OR olives

About 2 tablespoons parsley or coriander, chopped

2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

Green vegetable of your choice – here I added some steamed broccoli as a side to make a more complete meal but you can also add a handful of spinach leaves or chopped kale at the end and simply stir through to wilt the leaves slightly.

Method

Preheat oven to 200°C. Place on a baking sheet in the oven and roast for 30-45 minutes, depending on the size of the potato. You will know it’s done when a knife or fork can easily pierce the skin and the center is soft.

You can make more in quantity and leave them to cool, then wrap them in the baking sheet and put them in the fridge to use over up to 3 days.

Peel sweet potatoes and cut them into small cubes.

Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat and add the turmeric, garlic and onion.

Add the sweet potato and heat through for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly to coat the potatoes with the onion, garlic and turmeric. Add the Feta or olives and green leafy vegetable if you are using and stir until the mixture is heated through.

Turn off the heat and season with freshly ground pepper and a little salt. Add the parsley or coriander and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds.

You can serve this dish immediately with the sweet potato still warm or you can serve it cold.  It works well for picnics in summer.

sweet potatoes round

Baked Quinoa + Bean Patties With Healthy Ketchup

quinoa & bean patties healthy ketchup

I have a confession: I love ketchup. When I was younger, I would have it with anything, even popcorn and rice. And while my penchant for everything ketchup has thankfully subsided, I still sometimes crave that unbeatable ketchup-y taste.

What is it about ketchup that makes it so irresistible? The answer, my friends, is yet again, umami – that mystical fifth taste we are hardwired to find so irresistible.

Healthy Ketchup for Adults

This recipe contains several umami ingredients: The dried tomatoes, red wine vinegar, tamari sauce (or soy sauce), onion and garlic. It also combines a mix of tastes: Salty (sun-dried tomatoes + tamari sauce), sweet (from the maple syrup), pungent (onion + garlic), sour (vinegar). The addition of allspice also adds complexity to this fusion of tastes. This makes for a very sophisticated, grown-up version of ketchup that kids will probably not like (sorry!). Play around with adding more or less of certain ingredients to find a balance you like – taste is very individual.

Ingredients:

20 sun-dried tomatoes (buy them in bags without oil)

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 onion, peeled

2 cloves garlic, peeled

2 tbsp maple syrup

1  tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp tamari sauce (or soy sauce)

1/2 tsp allspice or ground cumin if you don’t have allspice

3/4 cup water (more or less depending on how liquid you want it)

Method:

Combine all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse until it is smooth. Adjust seasoning to suit your taste. If you want a milder flavor, use less sun-dried tomatoes and replace with canned or fresh tomatoes.  Store in a sealed jar in the fridge for up to 1 week. Makes 1 large jar.

Baked Quinoa + Bean Patties

These super quick and simple patties were inspired by Sweet Artichoke. They make about 12 medium sized patties.

You can store leftovers in the fridge for 1-2 days and reheat or eat them cold. I find they go especially well with the healthy ketchup recipe above and you can also serve them with a salad or vegetables. They also go well with hummus. The combination of quinoa and beans makes them a good source of protein.

Ingredients:

1 cup of cooked quinoa (learn how to cook quinoa here – soak it for at least 15 minutes before cooking and rinse well!)

1 cup of cooked white beans (or 1 can rinsed beans)

onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp salt

a few grinds of pepper

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Combine cooked quinoa and white beans in a bowl and mash them using a potato masher. Add the rest of the ingredients and combine. Form patties and place on a baking tray with parchment paper. Place in the oven and cook for about 30 minute, until the patties are brown and firm.

Tips:

Save time by making a bigger batch of quinoa and keep in the fridge for several days to use in other meals such as a stir-fry like this one, by making it into a porridge in the morning or adding it to soups and smoothies to make them more consistent.

You can also peel several cloves of garlic at a time and store in a jar in the fridge. garlic tip

Zucchini Crust Pizza + Raw Tomato Sauce

Zucchini Crust Pizza3It’s the season of zucchini and what better way to eat them than snuck into a pizza crust? Zucchini Crust Pizza is easier to make than traditional pizza, and it is also a great way of eating more vegetables while avoiding white flour. Oh, and did I mention it is absolutely delicious? Trust me, you won’t miss the ‘real’ thing!

Zucchini Crust Pizza is simply a crust of made of grated zucchini mixed with eggs. The pizza taste really comes from the toppings – you can add whatever you like.

Through sheer laziness, I recently experimented with a tomato sauce that doesn’t actually need to be cooked to taste amazing and I share the recipe for this below. Besides using it for this pizza, you can also combine this tomato sauce with zucchini noodles for a completely raw meal or with normal pasta which heats up the sauce and tastes wonderful.

I was inspired by these recipes to create my own recipe below- there are vegan options there if you want to avoid eggs.

How to Make the Zucchini Crust

Preheat oven to 220 degrees Celsius.

Grate 2 small, 1 1/2 medium or 1 really big zucchini in a bowl.

Place the zucchini in a clean dish towel, cheese cloth or nut milk bag and squeeze until all the liquid has come out. This is really important – otherwise your pizza will be soggy!

Add 2 small eggs or 1 large egg and mix.

Add about 1 tsp dried oregano and a pinch of salt.

Mix everything together and transfer to a pie dish. Press down the mixture with your hands so that it is well packed.

Place the crust in the oven for about 15 minutes or until it is golden brown and solid. Once it is ready, take it out of the oven and lower the heat to 200 degrees Celsius.

Zucchini Crust Pizza

Raw Tomato Sauce

While your crust is cooking, prepare the raw tomato sauce.

Place 4 medium tomatoes, roughly cut in a blender or food processor.

Add 2 cloves garlic, salt + pepper to taste.

Add 4 dried tomatoes for a more intense, umami taste.

Do not add any water or olive oil if you are making this for pizza so that it does not become too watery.

If you are making it for pasta, you can add a little olive oil and a small onion and 1/2 bell pepper as well as a little fresh basil. Add to the blended tomato mix and pulse once to combine so that there are still some chunky bits.

Toppings

Use the tomato sauce above as a base and add whatever you want. Here I used Mozzarella di Bufola, a chopped red onion, red bell pepper and some fresh basil at the end.

Place all the toppings on the crust and put back in the oven for a few more minutes, until the cheese is melted and it looks ready.

This can keep for a few days in the fridge and is delicious served cold as well!

Zucchini Crust Pizza2

What Makes Food Taste Good?

What makes food taste good.jpg

I must have done something right in my life since I am lucky enough to have married a (wonderful) man of Italian origin – which of course means delicious food whenever we visit his family in Italy.

This Easter, we decided to visit the region around Bologna, Parma and Modena –  places that gifted the world with food such as Parmesan cheese, Parma ham, salami, balsamic vinegar and stuffed pastas.

We didn’t plan any of our meals – we simply stumbled into the first restaurant we came across when we were hungry.

And every single meal we ate was amazing. Not just good, but amazing. And this got us thinking – what is the secret behind the world-renown food of this region?

Here is my attempt to put into words what makes food taste good based on my recent Italian road trip:

1. The quality of the ingredients

Italian cooking is based on using only the best quality ingredients. The preparation methods are very simple and rely on taste provided by the ingredients used rather than a complex preparation technique or heavy sauce.

2. Food is prepared with love – or at least pride

My mother used to say this was the secret ingredient in her cooking and my adolescent self would roll her eyes. My adult self has to admit that this really makes a difference. A few of the very simple restaurants we ate at still had the 80 year old owner taking our order and making sure the food was prepared just right. People are proud of food and food preparation is taken seriously.

3. Umami elements

Many of the ingredients we associate with Italian food such as tomatoes, olives/olive oil, garlic, onion, Parmesan, cured meats, balsamic vinegar, mushrooms etc are actually umami. As I have written before, adding elements of umami to your dishes is a sure way to boost taste – and when we boost taste, we also reduce cravings and overeating, as these happen when we eat food that isn’t exciting enough for our taste buds.

4. Being hungry

Being hungry enough to truly enjoy a meal is a gift we give ourselves. When we are constantly snacking and avoid ever getting really hungry, we can’t appreciate food in the same way.

Good food.jpg

I would love to hear from you – what makes food taste good in your opinion? 

Get Well Soon Red Lentil Soup

lentil soup1

Growing up, whenever someone in my family caught a cold, my mother would immediately whip up some red lentil soup or shorabet ‘adas as we call it in Arabic.

There was something magical about this soup: The mix of spices, fresh lemon and onion always made me feel better as soon as I ate it.

As an adult, I still make when my husband or I catch a cold or sometimes when I simply need a hug in a bowl.

I wanted to share this recipe with you as the perfect antidote to the colds that are so frequent this season. This powerful soup combines immune-boosting onion, nutritional powerhouse lentils and vitamin C-filled lemon juice. You can eat it as a starter or a main meal: Make it more filling by adding some of the toppings mentioned below. I almost always add olives, since as a healthy fat, they make a meal more filling while also adding some umami!

A nutritional aside

Red lentils are actually one of the fastest lentils to cook – they don’t need to be soaked (only washed) and are a good source of protein and fiber. Lentils are also a very good source of iron, and the vitamin C in the lemon helps improve iron absorption in the body.

I love using red lentils in soups because they become mushy when cooked unlike brown or green lentils which stay intact.

The star of this recipe is without a doubt the ground cumin. Cumin is traditionally paired with lentils in Arabic and Indian food because it acts as a digestive aid. Cumin is also a very warming spice – perfect for the winter months ahead, as well as a good source of magnesium and iron. Not just a tasty addition, a healthy one, too!

INGREDIENTS

2 cups red lentils, washed until the water is clear

4 cups or 1 liter water

2 onions, chopped

Ground cumin, salt & pepper to taste

Juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon – depends on the size of your lemon and how much you like the taste!

METHOD

Heat oil and fry the onion. Once it is cooked, add the washed lentils, stir with the onions, then add water and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, reduce heat and leave for about 10-15 minutes until the lentils are mushy.

Add the ground cumin, salt and pepper to taste – I use about a large tablespoon of cumin.

Once the soup is ready, remove from the heat and add lemon juice.

POSSIBLE TOPPINGS

Olives, capers, strips of grilled Arabic bread, steamed leafy greens like spinach, Swiss chard or kale or fresh spring onion for some added immunity boost.

I’d love to hear from you – what was your ‘Get well soon’ food growing up?

Umami or How to Make More Satisfying Meals

Umami TasteYou know the feeling. You’ve just eaten a full meal but you feel there’s something missing. You might be physically full but you’re not satisfied. In an effort to stimulate your taste buds, you seek out something sweet or salty to get that hit you didn’t have in your bland meal. Next time, try adding more umami-rich foods to your meal. Umami elevates the taste intensity of a dish. It’s your regular meal, on steroids. It adds flavor to an otherwise banal dish. And this is super important because taking full pleasure in what you are eating actually increases nutrient absorption in the body while stopping you from overeating or having cravings later on.

So what exactly is umami?

As you might already know, our tongues have taste buds that detect the following tastes: Sweet, salty, bitter and sour. The Japanese have always known this, but we also have a fifth set of taste buds for the taste of savory or umami. Umami comes from Japanese and means “pleasant savory taste”. Umami foods all have a warm, earthy, deeply satisfying taste. Chemically, these foods all contain an amino acid called glutamate which provides the distinctive umami taste. The man-made imitation of this is a chemical called monosodium glutamate (MSG) which the food industry adds to Asian food, soups, chips etc. to enhance flavor and increase their appeal. Stock cubes like Maggi cubes also use this principle to add taste but again, at the cost of putting an artificial man-made chemical into your body with potentially toxic side-effects. So here’s my solution: Leverage the power of naturally umami-rich foods to add big taste to your dishes.

UMAMI→ MORE SATISFACTION→ LESS CRAVINGS

As humans, we are hard-wired to love the taste of umami. Human breast milk is naturally rich in umami and babies already show a taste preference for sweet and umami-rich foods in their first months of life. It might also be a way of pointing us towards easy to digest protein-rich sources of food since umami is naturally found in proteins that have been partially broken down such as aged cheese, cured meats or soy sauce.  Adding more umami to your meals brings that taste that leaves us satisfied and without cravings after a meal.

Foods naturally rich in umami include:

    • Parmesan cheese & other aged cheese
    • Grilled & cured meat
    • Anchovies
    • Ripe tomatoes, tomato paste and ketchup and sun-dried tomatoes
    • Asparagus
    • Mushrooms
    • Nutritional yeast
    • Olives
    • Garlic
    • Dried sea vegetables
    • Marmite
    • Balsamic vinegar
    • Fermented foods like miso, tamari and sauerkraut
    • Red wine
    • Roasting and grilling food also increases umami

 

Ways of boosting umami in your cooking:

♦ Combine both red wine and balsamic vinegar in your favorite vinaigrette dressing.

♦ Use soy or tamari sauce to add flavor and saltiness to soup, add taste to a meat or poultry marinade, or to vegetables.

♦ Add blended dried tomatoes (you can buy them without the oil) to a stew or tomato sauce

♦ Add mushroom to soups, stews and sauces.

♦ Add fresh or dried seaweed to soups, stews and sauces.

♦ Add nutritional yeast to anything.

♦ Add green vegetables like asparagus to an omelet or frittata

♦ Sprinkle grated Parmesan on top of dishes.

♦ Add toasted nuts to a salad.

♦ Garlic is a very umami-friendly flavor and even a small amount — not enough to notice the garlic but enough to add complexity — can give whatever you’re cooking more flavor.

Caramelize onions to bring out their flavor and top dishes with them

♦ Roast or grill vegetables to bring out the taste such as in this recipe

♦ Add this easy to make umami sauce to anything from steamed vegetables to salads.  

I would love to hear from you, what umami foods do you use to add more flavor to your food?