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 I originally made this Autumn inspired salad with butternut, but pumpkin would be a delicious and suitable replacement.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

Gluten Free Bread… this is important.

Summer is definitely on its way. The past few days have been very warm and I feel like my relationship with the pool is officially complicated. Part of me can’t wait for summer days of lounging by the pool and soaking up the sun, the other part of me isn’t ready to say goodbye to the coziness of winter and my boots. I know… life is hard.

Boots aside, I also have this thing with soup and I always look forward to making all the soups when the temperature drops. With soup comes something important: bread. It’s really important. Fresh bread is one of life’s greatest pleasures and you shouldn’t have to give that up over something like a gluten intolerance. For this recipe I used rice flour which resulted in a much denser bread, I think a blend of gluten-free flours could result in something fluffier, but I love a dense bread so I didn’t mind. This is a good base to work with and you can play around with the flours to see what texture you like best. It can also easily be made vegan if you use a non-dairy milk. I’m looking forward to trying it with buckwheat or quinoa flours to see how it comes out with a pseudocereal, I’ll keep you posted on the results 🙂

gluten free bread

Gluten-Free Bread

yields 1 loaf adapted from Fork & Beans

2 1/2 tsp of yeast

1 cup of warm milk (dairy or non-dairy)

2 tsp of sugar

1 cup of warm water

5 TBS of ground flaxseed

3 TBS of olive oil

2 tsp of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar

3 cups of rice flour

1/4 cup of oats ground into a flour OR buckwheat flour

1 tsp of baking powder

1/2 tsp of baking soda

1/2 tsp of salt

  1. In a medium bowl combine the warmed milk with the yeast and sugar, allow to proof until frothy (approx.10 minutes). Add the water, olive oil, lemon juice, and ground flaxseeds and whisk until well-combined, then allow to sit for a few minutes while the flaxseeds thicken the mixture.
  2. In a large bowl combine the flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the wet mixture and mix until just combined.
  3. Place mixture into a greased bread pan, pressing the mixture lightly into the pan. Cover with a light towel or loosely with saran wrap, and allow the bread to rise in the pan in a warm part of the kitchen. The bread should be just above the pan before going into the oven, this will take 30-45 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 190C (350F) and bake the bread for 60 minutes. Allow the bread to cool completely in the pan before removing it.
  5. Enjoy! Preferably with some homemade soup, this one is always a favorite.

Enjoy your week!

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

Juicy Wednesdays: Fat-Burning Juice

So this morning I had a kitchen-sink cooking moment when I gathered everything I could find to make a nice juice, and accidentally made a juice that is perfect for anyone trying to shed a few. Please note, this juice has many other benefits aside from being a weight loss aid, it’s excellent for general detoxing, plus it’s refreshing with a nice amount of zing.

fat burning juice

Fat-Burning Juice

serves 2

1 cucumber

1 grapefruit

1 apple

1 lemon

1 thumb of ginger

Peel the cucumber, lemon, and grapefruit. Juice everything. Enjoy!

 

Benefits:

Grapefruit contains an antioxidant called naringenin that can help your liver breakdown fat. Grapefruit also has high levels of Vitamins A & C which are great for your immune system, and can beautify your skin. Lycopene, a phytochemical found in grapefruits, has powerful antioxidant properties which helps fight free-radicals in the body.

Cucumbers are full of skin-friendly minerals (magnesium, potassium, silicon). They also flush out toxins and have a soothing effect on the body.

Apples are a good source of pectin which aids in digestion. Apples are also very high in Vitamins A & C, and many other minerals. Furthermore, Apple juice is an excellent source of fiber and sufficient fiber is one of the keys to weight loss.

Ginger aids digestion and has many anti-inflammatory properties, but it works as a weight loss tool by having thermogenic effect on the body that helps activate your metabolism. Hence… the burn!

Lemon is just an all-arounder. It naturally alkalizes the body, aids in digestion, fights fluid retention, and is another Vitamin C superstar. I rarely exclude lemons from my juices.

 

xo,

Natalia

¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

cinco de mayo

¡Hola!

It’s no secret I’m a Mexican food FANATIC, there’s just something about the fresh ingredients and the combination of cilantro, cumin, chile, and lime that really gets me excited about sitting down for a meal (well, more than usual, that is). So naturally, Cinco de Mayo is a holiday I fully acknowledge.

Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico’s independence day (that is the 16th of September), but rather when the Mexican army beat the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862 (thanks Wikipedia!). We learn something new every day 🙂

Here’s a round-up of some delicious Mexican recipes from around the web:

1. Fish Tacos and Buckwheat Tortillas by yours truly! (note: there’s also a recipe for a delicious beetroot slaw and mango salad in there).

2. Restaurant-Style Salsa by the Pioneer Woman, serve with tortilla chips and guacamole for a yummy vegan starter.

3. Roasted Garlic Guacamole by Rick Bayless, this is a fun take on Guac, but a more traditional recipe can be found here by none other than Eva Longoria.

4. Vegan Enchiladas with Cilantro Avocado Cream Sauce by OhSheGlows.

5. Chicken Mole – complicated, but the traditional Cinco de Mayo dish.

6. Carne Asada for the carnivores, by Mexico in my Kitchen.

7. Vegan Mexican Street Corn by a House in the Hills

8. Tres Leches Cake, because… it’s a holiday. Thanks, Alton Brown.

9. Simple Margarita: 1 part tequila, 1 part Grand Marnier, freshly squeezed lime juice, agave to taste, all in a shaker and then poured over ice in a salt rimmed glass.

 

Mexican food is pretty forgiving so have fun today and play in the kitchen. ¡Hasta luego!

 

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

Friday Delight: Fish Tacos and Buckwheat Tortillas

On Wednesday we joined some friends from Joburg that were visiting the Lowveld, for lunch at Picasso’s. Being American and growing up with authentic Mexican restaurants all around me, I’m pretty picky about the Mexican fare in South Africa. For years, the Mexican restaurants I encountered tasted more like TexMex, or were spiced with things like curry (what???). Then along came El Burro in Cape Town, Perron in Johannesburg, and now Picassos’ in White River. These are all tasty restaurants, and the margaritas are top notch at all three. So, a totally random thing to find here in White River, but also totally delicious.

Anyway, this meal reminded me of the Valentine’s day meal I made for Matt. I really really love fish tacos (fortunately, so does he…) and this meal was fresh, healthy, and definitely worth making again. The menu included:

  • Broiled fish with a homemade rub
  • Raw beetroot slaw
  • Mango Salad
  • All served with Buckwheat tortillas (I used this recipe), Guacamole, and greens

fish tacos

(yes, I made the tortillas heart-shaped. don’t judge)

Fish and Fish Rub

4 fillets (around 100g each) of white fish (I used Hake)

1 tsp of chile powder

1-2 tsp of paprika

1/2 tsp of cumin

1 clove of garlic or 1/4 tsp of garlic powder

1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper

salt & pepper

Mix everything together, it should be enough for the 4 small fillets. Grease a pan and bake the fish until cooked through. Remove from Oven and flake.

Raw Beetroot Slaw

2 large or 3 small beetroots

1-2 carrots

lime juice

3 TBS of Salsa Verde (I use Mrs. Renfro’s)

1 dollop of plain yogurt (Greek or Coconut, just make sure it’s nice and thick)

salt & pepper

Grate the beetroots and carrot. Mix lime juice, yogurt, and salsa verde in a separate bowl, season with salt and pepper. Pour the mixture of the grated vegetables and toss until evenly coated.

Mango Salad (this recipe was borrowed from a friend)

1 large mango, cubed

1/2 a red onion, chopped

handful of cilantro/coriander, chopped

Juice of one lime

Mix all ingredients together and serve.

Let me know if you give it a shot!

xo,

Natalia