Autumn Salad

We’ve recently had a cold front come through the Lowveld, the mountains are looking particularly misty and there is a serious nip in the air. I don’t mind, subconsciously late September to me is still the beginnings of Autumn not Spring, and along with most of the USA, I’ve been having a hankering for pumpkin-flavored everything.

Butternut is often my pumpkin substitute in certain dishes because it is readily available and equally delicious. When the weather cools down, I love the idea of a warm salad with wilted greens with roasted vegetables. I originally made this Autumn inspired salad with butternut, but pumpkin would be a delicious and suitable replacement. This salad is tangy with a bit of sweet from the maple syrup and caramelized onions, and it also has that roasty flavor from the root vegetables. It is very nutritious and would make an excellent side or main dish.

Autumn Salad

Autumn Salad

serves 3-4

for the salad:

1 large head of kale

2-3 cups of raw cubed butternut

3 cubed beetroots

1 tablespoon of olive or coconut oil, plus 1 teaspoon

1 onion

salt and pepper

for the dressing:

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 tablespoons of white wine vinegar

1 tsp of maple syrup

  1. Preheat your oven to 200C/400F
  2. Wash and dry the beetroots and cut off the stems. You can peel the beetroots if you want to, I never do though because I like the crispy skin once they’re roasted. Chop the beetroots, and place them in a bowl.
  3. Wash and cube the butternut and add to the bowl with the beetroots.
  4. Drizzle one tablespoon of the olive or coconut oil over the butternut and beetroot and toss. Season with salt and pepper and place on a baking tray. Roast for 35-40 minutes, or until cooked.
  5. While the vegetables are roasting, start caramelizing your onion. Cut the ends of the onion and slice in half through the root. Slice the onion thinly lengthwise.
  6. Heat the other teaspoon of olive or coconut oil in a saute pan, and add your onions. Gently saute the onions for about 10 minutes, reduce the heat if you see them burning or drying out. Season with salt and continue to saute for another 10 minutes or until you are happy with their consistency. True caramelization takes a bit longer, but it’s up to you.
  7. Rinse and chop the kale. Add the chopped kale to the onions and saute until only slightly wilted. The water from the kale will have a light steaming effect on the greens, you can even put a cover over the pan for a minute to speed up the process. Don’t leave it on the heat too long though, it should only have a slight wilt, not be fully steamed.
  8. Mix the dressing ingredients together, pour and toss the roasted vegetables and kale/onion mix together very gently, serve immediately.
  9. Enjoy!

 

Hope you give it a shot… and stay warm!

 

xo,

Natalia

Friday Delights: Vegan Keftedes

Matt comes from a Greek family that is quickly helping me become well-versed in Greek cuisine. Greek food is delicious, fresh, unique, and I rarely get tired of it. Greek food also seems to have two sides: naughty and nice. On the one hand we have tzatziki, Greek salads, melitzanosalta, plenty of grilled seafood, souvlaki, etc. On the other hand we have heavier things like moussaka, taramasalata (MY FAVORITE!), gyros, and… Keftedes. Keftedes are deliciously seasoned fried meatballs that are perfect paired with some creamy tzatziki. In the past I have replaced ground beef with lentils when I want to turn a traditionally meat dish vegan, so I decided to use this method and attempt a vegan keftede. The result was tasty, healthy, and easy enough to add to my weekday dinner line-up.

DSC_0017

Vegan Keftedes

2 cups of cooked lentils (these can be plain or seasoned, just watch the salt if they’re already seasoned)

1/2 cup of ground flaxseed

1/3 cup of water

2 TSB of olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tsp of dry oregano

1/4 cup of chopped fresh mint

1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsley

salt and pepper to taste

polenta or cornmeal for rolling

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F
  2. Place the lentils, flaxseed, water, and olive oil in bowl and mash until you have a consistency that is malleable but still has some whole lentils for texture.
  3. Add the minced garlic, oregano, mint, and parsley and mix together with a spoon. Then add the salt and pepper and taste. It’s ok to go a little over salty on this one as the saltiness will lessen once they are cooked.
  4. Pour some polenta on a working space and roll 1-2TBS size balls of the mixture in your hands and then in the polenta to give the exterior a nice crunch coat.
  5. Grease a baking sheet, line up the balls, and bake for 20 minutes, turning the keftedes halfway through.
  6. Serve with tzatziki and enjoy!

These are high in fiber, vegan, gluten-free, and naturally healthy. We enjoyed ours with tzatziki, a salad, and rice 🙂

Hope you have a happy Friday!

xo,

Natalia

DIY Juice Cleanse

In a few weeks I will be headed to the States for TWO MONTHS. This will be the longest amount of time I have spent on American soil in nearly six years. Cray. The trip will be jam-packed with celebrations as I am headed over for two of my closest friends’ weddings. So that means twice the bachelorette and wedding fun, and just to put two cherries on top of that cake: I get to be home for my birthday and the 4th of July. I can barely stand the excitement.

The first bachelorette is in New Orleans, home of jazz, hurricanes, beignets, and legal public drinking. So while I’m having crazy pre-party jitters that could use a sedative (wine)… I am also trying to stay extra healthy until I go.

A while back my friend Amy and I did a juice cleanse. This was before they were readily available in South Africa (can we just talk about the sudden juice boom in Johannesburg??? love it), so I did some research and basically designed my own juice cleanse from a combination of popular ones in the States and UK. This takes a lot of work, because you’ll be juicing a TON of produce, but it can be interesting and if you live in the States or UK, it will save you quite a bit of money. Juice cleanses are fairly inexpensive in South Africa compared to overseas, so for as long as I live here I will pay for the convenience of having someone else juice huge quantities of produce for me. However, if you have a juicer and want to save some money, here is my juice cleanse:

***note: this is an intense green juice cleanse, if you want something a little less hectic, replace the 5th juice with another root juice***

DIY juice cleanse

in-a-day:

breakfast– sweet greens 1

mid-morning– root juice

lunch– very green (no fruit)

mid-afternoon-sweet greens 2

dinner– very green (no fruit)

dessert– almond milk

 

Shopping list per day (remember to always buy organic where possible!):

5 apples

32 celery stalks

3-4 cucumbers (depending on size)

22 spinach leaves

12 kale leaves

2 heads of Romaine/Cos lettuce

3 lemons

1 beet

5 carrots

parsely, mint, ginger

24 almonds

 

The juices:

Sweet Greens 1: juice 2 apples, 6 celery stalks, 1/2 cucumber, 6 spinach leaves, 3 kale leaves, sprig of mint

Root Juice: juice 5 carrots, 1 apple, 1/2 cucumber, 1 beet, 1/2 lemon

Very Green (x2): 10 celery stalks, 1 cucumber, 1 lemon, 1 head of romaine/cos, 5 spinach leaves, 3 kale leaves, bit of parsley and mint, 1 inch of ginger

Sweet Greens 2: 2 apples, 6 celery stalks, 1/2 cucumber, 6 spinach leaves 2 kale leaves, 1/2 lemon, 1 inch of ginger

Almond Milk: In a high speed blender, blend 1 tsp of raw honey, 400 ml of water, 24 almonds (soaked over night), dash of cinnamon, nutmeg, pure vanilla extract, and sea salt. Squeeze through a nut milk bag. (For more detailed directions on making almond milk, see here)

Some tips:

  • You can repeat this for as many days as you’d like, but it isn’t really necessary to do more than 5 days, 3 days is my preference.
  • The second day is usually the hardest, if you’re a caffeine/sugar junkie, prepare for headaches… but they pass. I promise.
  • If you’re STARVING have a piece of fruit, or some carrot/celery sticks, half an avocado would also be fine, but try to avoid eating. The juices are giving you nutrients so you won’t feel as hungry as you might think.
  • Don’t have anything else, the idea is to cleanse, flush out toxins, and give your digestive system a break.
  • Herbal teas are fine accompaniments, but make sure they’re caffeine free and don’t add any sweeteners or milk. A squeeze of lemon is fine though.
  • Drink water.

Let me know if you give a shot! Happy juicing 🙂

 

xo,

Natalia

Quick and Healthy – Aji de Gallina

My mom’s side of the family is from Lima, Peru, and while I was born in Lima, we’ve been stateside since I was nearly 2. Even though my dad is American, we grew up speaking a lot of Spanish at home (fortunately he learned), and when my mom cooked, you could be sure it was going to be a delicious Peruvian meal.

Peruvian food is amazing and my mom’s cooking definitely does it justice (the woman is talented!). Between her ceviche, empanadas, causa, PISCO SOURS… I could go on and on. But my favorite, will always be: aji de gallina. Aji is a spicy yellow pepper found in South America, and it’s pretty much in all Peruvian dishes. The flavor is unique and the color just brings a special brightness to its dishes. Aji de Gallina is a delicious creamy spicy chicken dish, and the rich sauce normally requires a range of ingredients like breadcrumbs/white bread, evaporated milk, walnuts, parmesan cheese, and more. Last night I decided to make a MUCH less complicated version that was also gluten and dairy free. It was far from traditional, but still tasty and gave me my Peruvian fix.

aji de gallina

(I know… I know… I really need to stop with iphone pics and start using the camera. Working on it!)

My Aji de Gallina

serves 3-4

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • 1 TBS of coconut oil
  • 1 white onion
  • 2 large cloves of garlic
  • aji amarillo paste
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • salt and pepper

1. Place the chicken breasts in a pan and cover with water. Add half of the stock cube and bring to a simmer. Cook the chicken for 10-15 minutes, until cooked through. Then remove the chicken from the water and set aside to cool. Once cooled, shred the chicken into bite size pieces. This can be done ahead of time, or with leftover chicken.

2. Heat the oil in a pan. Finely chop the onion and mince the garlic, add to the pan and saute on medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the coconut milk and aji amarillo paste – this is the tricky part because aji amarillo paste varies in potency. Use your discretion here based on how spicy your paste is. Mine was fairly mild, so I added 3 tablespoons, but I’ve had aji pastes where 1 teaspoon would have been enough.

3. Add the other half of the stock cube to the sauce and stir until well combined. Add the chicken and bring to a simmer for a few minutes so the flavors can marry. Taste and season with salt and pepper, you may even want to add more aji at this point.

4. Serve with potatoes or rice and garnish with black olives. Enjoy!

Quick and easy peasy. While my mom’s is way more traditional and complex, this was the perfect healthy weeknight dish that hit the spot and had me thinking about my family 🙂

xo,

Natalia

Vegan Snickerdoodles

I have a treat for you today….

Sundays are for baking in my books, and since I have an inner cookie monster, this Sunday I wanted cookies (surprise!). Initially, I was craving the good ole chocolate chip variety, but venturing to the shops for chocolate didn’t sound very appealing, so I had to improvise with what I had. What resulted were the most wonderful snickerdoodles I have ever had. I can only compare them to the super soft ones you buy at stores like Costco that are full of terrible ingredients but taste oh-so worth it. Fortunately, these are vegan, can be made gluten free, and are super easy. Best of all, they practically melt in your mouth. Utter goodness.

snickerdoodle2

 

Vegan Snickerdoodles

yields about 24 cookies (give or take depending on how much dough you “test”) 

1 1/4 cups of flour (if you’re going gluten-free, I recommend Nature’s Choice or Bob’s Red Mill)

1/2 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp of baking soda

1/2 tsp of salt

1 tsp of ground cinnamon

1/2 cup of coconut oil, softened

1/2 cup of sugar (or granulated sweetener of choice)

1/4 cup of coconut or almond milk

1 tsp of vanilla extract

cinnamon for rolling

1. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and teaspoon of cinnamon together into a medium bowl. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, combine softened coconut oil, sugar, milk, and vanilla until mixed.

3. Add dry mix to wet mix in batches until a dough is formed. Shake some cinnamon onto a clean surface and roll the dough into 1-1.5 inch balls and then roll them in the cinnamon. Place cookie dough balls on a baking sheet.

4. The trick to soft snickerdoodles is to put them in the oven when they are very cold. So to achieve this, put the baking sheet of cookie dough balls into the freezer for 30 minutes. Once they have been in the freezer for a while, start preheating the oven to 165C (330F). After 30 minutes in the freezer, put the cookies directly into the oven and bake for about 10 minutes.

5. After 10 minutes take the cookies out of the oven, they will look underdone, but just wait. Let them cool on the pan for half an hour, then store in an air-tight container…. but first, take a bite!

snickerdoodle1

Enjoy the rest of your Tuesday fellow cookie monsters 🙂

 

xo,

Natalia

 

Juicy Wednesday: Watermelon & Bubbles

Ok so this post is two-fold… on the one hand we have a simple delicious juice and on the other we have a naughty juice… a.k.a. a cocktail. I think this is appropriate considering it’s hump day, so we could all use a little health AND a little naughtiness to help us get to the weekend 🙂

One of my favorite things about summer is that watermelon is in season. I could subsist on watermelon. It’s versatile, delicious, and the health benefits go on and on. Here are a few:

  • Alkaline-forming
  • Low in sugar and calories
  • Natural diuretic (yay for kidney health!)
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • High in antioxidants
  • Natural electrolyte (hello, post-workout food)
  • Can reduce body fat

Yum. While you can put watermelon through a juicer, it’s not really necessary. The fruit is so high in water that it’s worth keeping the pulp and just popping some chunks into the blender.

Watermelon Cooler

serves 2

1 cucumber

handful of mint

2 cups of chopped watermelon

Blend the watermelon. Juice the cucumber and mint. Mix the two. Voila!

 

Watermelon Bellinis

chopped watermelon

champagne/sparkling wine (just make sure it’s dry, the watermelon adds sweetness and you don’t want a sickly sweet cocktail)

mint to garnish (optional)

1. Blend the watermelon until smooth.

2. Fill a champagne flute 2/3 of the way with champagne, then carefully top with the watermelon juice.

3. Enjoy!

watermelonbellinis

We enjoyed a few of these over the weekend and I have to admit, they go down WAY too easy. Delicious, refreshing, simple, and screaming summer.

Cheers to hump day!

 

xo,

Natalia

Thin & Crispy Millet Pizza Crust

Hello!

Hope everyone had a lovely weekend. Something happened this past Friday that just made my world better. This Friday a Millet Pizza Crust was discovered and will forever change my already enormous obsession with millet. In addition, while the pizza tasted indulgent, it was completely guilt-free and full of so many health benefits that I just had to share it with you today.

Millet is like a cheaper quinoa in terms of nutritional content because the carb/protein ratios are very similar, but the texture is more like a stickier cous cous. The health benefits found in Millet are vast and include:

  • It is gluten-free
  • It is a “smart” carb, Millet is low on the glycemic index and digests efficiently
  • It is very high in fiber
  • It is high protein
  • It is high in Magnesium
  • And my favourite…. MILLET IS ALKALINE

It’s basically the new quinoa, hop on board.

Here my recipe for a Millet Pizza Crust, just don’t expect the fluffy bready crust we often find in those beloved Italian brick-oven pizzas. Think more along the lines of a crispy thin-crust pizza. Nom nom.

millet pizza crust

Thin & Crispy Millet Pizza Crust

1 cup of Millet, rinsed

3 cups of water +1/4 of cup

1.5 TBSP of chia seeds

6 TBSP of boiling water

¼ cup of chickpea flour

4 TBSP of olive oil

3 cloves of garlic minced

1 tsp of dried oregano

salt and pepper to taste

½ cup of cornmeal

toppings (pesto, tomato, basil, non-dairy cheese, mozzarella, you name it)

  1. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil, rinse the millet and add to the boiling water. Reduce heat and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally so the millet doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Once the Millet is finished cooking move on to the following steps until it is cool enough to handle.
  2. Preheat oven to 200C (400F)
  3.  In a small bowl combine chia seeds with the 6 TBSP of boiling water mix quickly until combined. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, combine chickpea flour with ¼ cup of water and allow to set for 20 minutes.
  5. Once the millet has cooled and the chickpea flour has set, whisk the chia seed/water mix (should have a jelly-like consistency), olive oil, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper into the chickpea flour mix until combined.
  6. Add the millet and cornmeal and knead into a dough-like ball.
  7. Place ball onto a greased pan (I brushed my pan with a bit of olive oil, but don’t be shy with greasing the pan, this will stick otherwise) and spread the dough until the crust is about a ¼ of an inch (approximately ½ cm) thick.
  8. Cook the crust in the oven for 25 minutes.
  9. Remove the crust and change your oven to the broiler setting and increase the temperature to 225C.
  10. Top the crust with your toppings of choice, and put it back right under the broiler for about 3minutes or until the cheese has melted and the toppings are nice and toasty… but watch your pizza like a hawk so it doesn’t burn, some toppings may require a little more time.
  11. Enjoy!

Have a lovely week!

xo,

Natalia