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Last night was one of those where I hadn’t planned what to make for dinner. Usually, that means I’ll make some brown rice pasta or a big salad with whatever’s in the fridge, but it was time to come up with something different. I had a bag of red quinoa in my cupboard, some spinach in the fridge, and half jars full of sun dried tomatoes and black olives. The result? An Italian-inspired quinoa dish topped with a fried egg for extra protein.
When frying anything, but particularly eggs, make sure you don’t overdo it on the heat. Gently frying over a low heat will ensure that the wonderful and delicate proteins in the egg aren’t harmed. Don’t burn it, whatever you do!
Healthier options for cooking an egg (if you have more time):
- Hard or soft boiled
- Gently scrambled
- In an omelet or frittata
Warm Italian Red Quinoa
Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 15 mins
Keywords: saute simmer entree gluten-free nut-free soy-free vegetarian wheat free
Ingredients (serves 2)
- 1 cup red quinoa
- 1 red onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 tsp dried basil
- sea salt and black pepper
- 8-10 sun-dried tomatoes (with some of the oil from the jar)
- 10-12 pitted black olives
- 2 handfuls organic spinach
- 2 oz pecorino cheese, grated
- 2 organic eggs
Cook the quinoa in 2 cups of water according to package instructions (should take about 15 minutes).
Meanwhile, saute the red onion and garlic in some olive oil for 3-4 minutes (for extra flavor, use some of the oil from the jar of sun-dried tomatoes). Add salt, pepper, and some dried basil and stir well. Add the sun-dried tomatoes and the olives and continue cooking for an extra 2-3 minutes.
When the quinoa only has a couple of minutes to go, add the spinach to the saute pan and cook until wilted. Move the veggie mixture to a bowl and add a little more olive oil if needed. Gently fry the eggs in the same pan for a few minutes, until cooked to your liking. (Pregnant ladies like me – cook until the yolks are set!)
Toss the cooked quinoa with the veggies and the grated pecorino.
Top each serving with a fried egg.
With a pretty much insatiable appetite for everything these days, I was so excited when a friend emailed me the link to a fabulous gluten-free brownie recipe from Left on Amelia via Elana’s Pantry. This friend is also pregnant, so I was thrilled to try it out after her rave reviews!
They’re pretty genius (not to mention delicious). You take a whole 16-ounce jar of almond butter and mix it with a few other more traditional brownie ingredients and bake it for half an hour. What you get is a super decadent, creamy, gooey, fudgey brownie that doesn’t contain any flour, refined sugar, dairy, or weird junk.
While in London, we made the brownies using the ingredients we could find in a nearby Tesco for a family dinner (peanut butter instead of almond butter, golden syrup instead of maple syrup). The results weren’t quite as gooey and creamy, so I’d really recommend sticking to the ingredients below – even if that means tracking them down online or at a specialty store.
Almond Butter vs Peanut Butter
While both contain a good source of monounsaturated fats, almonds are far more nutritious, containing plenty of vitamin E, calcium and magnesium, as well as many other minerals. They are also a great source of fiber and protein – I’m sure you’ve seen the many health articles telling you to snack on almonds. However, when it comes to nut butters, almond is my number one choice, especially if it’s a natural product (an easy way to determine this is if the ingredients list contains 1 or 2 items: almonds and maybe salt). However, if you love peanut butter, there is still a way to enjoy it healthily:
- Choose a PB that, again, contains only peanuts and maybe salt. Anything else on that ingredients list is there for preservation, consistency, and sweetness – all of which I find totally unnecessary.
- Keep your jar of natural peanut or almond butter in the fridge to preserve it for longer.
- Make sure you stir it up each time you use it – the layer of oil at the top of your jar is totally natural and contains healthy fats that you want!
- And if you like a bit of sweetness, add that yourself – using natural jams, jellies, honey, or bananas.
Try making your own! Almond butter is generally more expensive, so instead go to the bulk bins and load up a bag with raw unsalted almonds. Grind them in your food processor for several minutes until you get the consistency you want and store in the fridge. Cheap and cheerful!
Almond Butter Brownies
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Keywords: bake dessert gluten-free soy-free vegetarian wheat free
Ingredients (12 brownies)
- 1 16-ounce jar almond butter (crunchy or creamy, your call)
- 2 organic eggs, beaten
- 1 cup maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla powder
- ½ cup raw cacao powder
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 cup dark chocolate chips (or chopped up dark chocolate)
Preheat the oven to 325F. Grease a square or rectangular baking dish with coconut oil.
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Pour into the baking dish.
Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes. Leave to cool for 5 minutes before devouring.
When did pasta become such a dinner staple in the US and the UK? Was it always the standby dinner for our parents and grandparents? I have a feeling it wasn’t until the last 50 years or so that people in these countries started eating pasta at home on a weekly basis (unless they came from Italian families of course).
And now, as gluten-free diets become more and more commonplace, pasta is turning up in different forms. Our household is no exception.
Phil and I have pasta about once a week. He loves making his own pasta sauce; I like coming up with interesting additions to the dish.
But one thing is constant: we use brown rice pasta.
I haven’t eaten wheat-based pasta for a long while now. I haven’t even had spelt pasta for a while (something we ate pretty regularly in the UK). And we really can’t tell the difference in texture or flavor! There is, however, a noticeable shift in the way we feel physically. Gone are the days of weighed down, bloated, over-stuffed bellies after a bowl of pasta. The brown rice-based versions leave us feeling lighter, our bellies happier.
And that is upgrade number one.
Here are some other ways you can upgrade your standard bowl of pasta, while still hanging onto that convenient midweek dinner option:
- Add Fresh Veggies. Choose one or two vegetables. Don’t boil them. Instead, steam or saute for just a few minutes, so that their color remains intact and they still have a bit of crunch. Bonus points if the veggies are in season!
- Add an Interesting Protein. Too often, a pasta dish is garnished with nothing more than a jar of sauce and some powdery parmesan. Give it a bit of oomph with some protein, in the form of eggs, organic chicken sausage, or tempeh crumbles (see recipe below).
- Spice it Up. All it takes is a few shakes of some spicy red pepper flakes, or a small red chili chopped up finely. Gone are the days of bland pasta for dinner.
- Keep it Zesty. Lemon zest can take a dish of pasta from boring to vibrant.
- When in Doubt, Add Olive Oil. If you’re going sauce-less, like the below recipe, extra olive oil is definitely your friend.
- Grate the Cheese Yourself. I urge you to never buy grated cheese from the supermarket. It’s dry, tasteless, and usually full of added preservatives. Instead, buy a chunk of some fresh parmesan or pecorino (I like Pecorino because it’s made from sheep milk yet still has the saltiness of Parmesan) and grate as needed. It will last FOREVER in your fridge (so don’t let the price tag scare you off).
Now, go forth and make dinner interesting!
Broccoli & Mushroom Pasta with Crispy Tempeh and Garlic
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 15 mins
Keywords: boil saute entree gluten-free nut-free soy-free vegan vegetarian wheat free Italian
Ingredients (serves 4)
- 16 oz brown rice penne (or other pasta)
- 8 oz plain tempeh
- olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 head broccoli, chopped into small bitesize pieces (stem too)
- 2 handfuls shiitake mushrooms, roughly chopped (tough parts of stems removed)
- zest of 1 lemon
- 3 oz Pecorino cheese, grated (or Parmesan)
- sea salt and black pepper
- optional: 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
Cook the pasta according to package instructions. Brown rice pasta typically takes a little bit longer to cook. Drain the pasta and leave in a covered pot off the heat while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan. Crumble the tempeh up into very small pieces and add to the hot oil carefully. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring often, until the tempeh starts to brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Leave to drain and cool slightly.
In another frying pan, add some more oil and the garlic. Cook over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes, then add the broccoli and mushrooms. Saute for 5-8 minutes, until warmed but still with a bit of crunch to the broccoli.
Add the veggies, tempeh, grated cheese, red pepper flakes (if using), and lemon zest to the cooked pasta. Season with salt and pepper and add another glug of olive oil.
Toss well to combine and serve.
I’ve got a pretty incredible spread to share with you. It’s as tasty as it is nutritious, a combination I strive for with every meal. It takes about 2 seconds to make and only involves 2 ingredients. In fact, I could barely call this recipe, but wanted to share it nonetheless.
As a pregnant lady, I’m especially interested in finding healthful recipes that will also give me some much needed nutrient boosters. Two nutrients in particular that expectant moms need are iron and calcium. “So pop a couple of vitamins and drink some milk!” I hear the average doctor recommend. Well… not so fast.
Iron is an essential mineral, carrying oxygen in the blood, which is especially important for women. Many women are iron-deficient, resulting in anemia, a condition that leaves you feeling tired, weak, irritable, nauseous, and constipated. Iron supplements are usually prescribed to correct this imbalance. However, they are hard for the body to assimilate and shouldn’t take the place of consuming plenty of food-based iron sources. Vitamin C can also help your body to absorb iron, so taking about 500mg of C along with your daily dose of iron (whether in supplement or food form) can make a world of difference. Dairy and caffeine tend to inhibit iron absorption as well, so if you are anemic be aware of your dairy and caffeine consumption, taking them at separate times of day or decreasing them altogether. If you do decide to take an iron supplement, ensure that it is a chelated form, and pay attention to its effects on your body – if you experience nausea or constipation, stop taking them and stick to food and herb sources of iron, as below.
- Dark leafy green vegetables
- Dried fruits (raisins, apricots, figs, prunes, currants, cherries)
- Blackstrap molasses
- Sea vegetables
- Beans & Legumes
- Whole grains
- Red meat
- Herbs (nettle, dandelion, yellow dock, alfalfa, fennel)
Forget everything you think you know about calcium. Drinking milk all day long will not make you the calcium queen. Milk is difficult to digest for the majority of the world, so the calcium absorption the body receives is minimal. However, this mineral is crucial to good health, not just in pregnancy. Not only is it essential for the health of your bones, it can also help to reduce incidences of anxiety and insomnia. As with iron, caffeine inhibits calcium absorption, so if you know you are deficient, try reducing your caffeine intake.
- Hard cheeses
- Unhulled sesame seeds
- Leafy green vegetables
- Sea vegetables
- Blackstrap molasses
- Herbs (alfalfa, red raspberry leaf, nettle, chamomile, dandelion)
My great friend Gabriela told me about this concoction when I first told her about my pregnancy. She is so passionate about health and motherhood, I just knew she’d have some wonderful advice to share. This spread is quick and easy, satisfying some much needed sweetness and creaminess cravings on toast, banana bread, cornbread… whatever your heart desires!
Tahini Molasses Spread
Makes 1 serving
- 2 tbsp tahini
- 1 tbsp unsulphured blackstrap molasses
Stir up the tahini well before mixing with the molasses in a small dish. Stir it up good! Then spread it wherever you’d normally have nut butter or jam… I’m partial to gluten-free toast these days.
I personally can’t wait for this Sunday’s main event – watching all the overpriced commercials and picking my favorite. Oh and the football game too.
In the last few years, however, since I was living in London and they show the game live, which means it goes on far too late for me and my sleepy head, I’ve been more excited about having people over for chili and cornbread. It’s a great excuse to invite friends over and share a casual meal – something that requires very little effort on your part and produces tasty results.
I’ve posted about Superbowl parties I’ve had before, but decided to re-post the recipes here with some tweaks I’ve made over the years and will be using this Sunday.
Have a fabulous Super Bowl Sunday everyone and enjoy the day!
Gluten-Free Vegan Cornbread
Adapted from Veganomicon
- 2 cups coconut or almond milk
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 cups cornmeal
- 1 cup gluten-free flour mix (like Bob’s Red Mill)
- 1/4 cup coconut sugar or honey
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Either use a cast-iron skillet or a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.
- Combine the milk and vinegar in a jug and set aside to curdle.
- In a large mixing bowl, sift together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Make a well in the center and add the milk mixture and oil. Use a wooden spoon to mix together until just combined. Some lumps are okay.
- Pour the batter into the prepared skillet or pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a knife inserted through the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool before serving.
Adapted from Eat, Drink & Be Vegan
- 1 1/2 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 3 celery stalks, diced
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, diced
- 1 tsp sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tbsp hot chili powder
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp allspice
- 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 15-oz cans chopped tomatoes
- 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 can light coconut milk
- 1/2 cup shredded coconut
- tabasco, to taste
- 1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
- lime wedges, to serve
- In a large pot, add oil, onion, celery, pepper, garlic, salt, pepper, chili powder, cinnamon, and allspice, and stir to combine. Cover and cook for 7-9 minutes, stirring occasionally; reduce heat if onions or garlic starts to burn.
- When onions start to soften, add cocoa powder and stir for 1-2 minutes, then add tomatoes, beans, coconut milk, and coconut, and stir to combine. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in corn kernels and cook another 5 minutes to heat through. Remove cover to let liquid reduce if desired. Season to taste with additional salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Serve with lime wedges to squeeze on generous amounts of juice.