Vegan Meringues…. weird chickpea magic

meringue

Before you freak out at the thought of using chickpea cooking liquid to make meringues can I ask you to suspend your disbelief and give these a whirl. Not only do they taste great (not a bit like chickpea), they also contain a much smaller amount of sugar than standard meringue and would be a fun thing to do with kids. Known as aquafaba in the business, this liquid is a great all round egg replacer.

I used these meringues recently for a vegan cake I made and the consensus was that they are the business for vegans or anyone who can’t have egg.

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Aquafaba Meringues       Makes 80 small meringues

1/2 cup chickpea liquid – the liquid drained from a standard can of chickpeas
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Place chickpea liquid and vinegar in a very clean bowl. Any trace of fat will ruin this so I like to wash my bowl well with hot soapy water before I start. Beat with a stand or electric hand held mixer for about 5 mins until stiff peaks form. Slowly add sugar one spoonful at a time whilst continuing to beat. Once all the sugar is incorporated add in vanilla.
At this stage you could also fold in flavourings such as coconut or almond meal if you’d like to.

Pipe or spoon meringue onto trays lined with baking paper and bake for 1 – 1 1/2 hours at 100 degrees c. Small meringues will obviously take less time to cook than pavlova sizes and will feel dry to touch when ready. Once cooked open oven door slightly and allow to cool for another 30 minutes.

*** If you want to get creative you can tint meringue mixture with food colouring, pipe into different sizes and shapes or, like the photo above, you can paint food dye (you can use natural colourings) onto the inside of your piping bag, fill with meringue and pipe stripy meringues onto trays.

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Sticky, sweet, spicy tofu ….

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Last night I headed to the vegetable garden looking for inspiration. I came back with an armload of broccoli, spring onions, bok choy and kale. They looked like the perfect match for some tasty tofu. Here’s what transpired …

Sticky, Sweet, Spicy Tofu 

500g block of firm tofu – well drained and dried on paper towel or tea towel.

Marinade
3 tblsp soy sauce
1/2 – 1 tsp chili flakes
4 tblsp honey
2 tblsp oyster sauce ( you can get vegetarian oyster sauce if you’re a herbivore like me)
2 tblsp rice wine vinegar
1 tblsp sesame oil
lots of ground black pepper

Extras
1 tblsp honey
2 tblsp oyster sauce
3 teaspoons cornflower
Sesame seeds
Spring onions

Heat oven to 180 degrees.

In a large bowl mix together all of the marinade ingredients. Cut tofu into 2cm cubes and place into bowl with marinade. Leave to stand for 15 minutes.

Scoop tofu out of marinade and place on baking tray in a single layer. Keep leftover marinade ! Bake tofu for 15 minutes, turn and bake further 15 minutes until golden and slightly crisp. To the retained marinade add the cornflour and extra honey and oyster sauce and set aside as this will be used later.

Heat frypan and place baked tofu into this. Pour leftover marinade into the hot frypan with the tofu. Stir for about two minutes until sauce thickens and coats tofu. Move to serving plate and sprinkle with chopped spring onions and sesame seeds. Serve with rice and lots of green vegetables.

 

No time for breakfast…

smoothie with blueberries, banana and cereal

Are mornings a stress filled rush hour for you ??? Getting ready for work, school or uni, making lunches, feeding children, finding sports uniforms, feeding pets, hanging out washing … Things can feel pretty frantic. Not the best way to start the day.Your cortisol levels are naturally at their highest in the mornings so adding in a frantic schedule can cause a skyrocket of stress hormones.

You have two choices – streamline what you need to do or get up earlier. Either way you need to make time for breakfast. When you skip breakfast your body is literally running on empty and the effects can be hard and wide reaching.

As I said, cortisol levels are highest around 7am. When you eat breakfast your levels decrease and you can avoid that jittery, anxious, nervous feeling that often comes mid morning when you’ve not eaten.

You also need to eat to restore glycogen and level out blood sugars. This has a positive effect on your mood, hunger and helps avoid that ‘hangry’ feeling where your body is crying out for sustenance and making you irritable and cranky.

Regularly missing breakfast is also associated with increased risks of heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol and blood pressure and increases your risk of weight gain/obesity.

When you skip meals, especially breakfast, your body can go into famine mode and start trying to store energy. Eating breakfast helps you to avoid this and increases your metabolism throughout the day making weight management easier.

The best breakfasts include some protein, healthy carb and  fats e.g. eggs, avocado, oats, nut butters. If that all sounds like an impossible dream why not give a smoothie a go. Its ready in minutes, you can take it with you, it suits those people who don’t really feel all that hungry in the morning and, when made well, has all the things you need to power you through till lunch.

My current obsession is with Prana protein powders which are plant based and taste fantastic. For a super smoothie which provides you with fibre, carbs, good fats, hormone balancing effects, blood sugar modulation, antioxidant rich berries and is completely delicious give this one a go ….I sometimes can’t wait till morning so will have it for dinner too but that’s another story….

Ripe organic blueberry. prana

My favourite breakfast smoothie

1/2 frozen banana
lots of ice
1/2 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 cup water, add more as necessary to get the consistency you like
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 heaped tablespoon of vanilla creme or coconut Prana protein powder
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon maca and cacao powder

Place all of this in your blender, whiz it up and you’re good to go.

You can play around with the fruits and milks to find what you like best.

Really good choc chip biscuits…and why it’s great they are wheat free

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If you can’t tolerate wheat, are vegan or lactose intolerant I have the biscuit for you.

This little gems tick all the boxes – chewy with crispy edges, sweet and nutty.  Just because you have some dietary issues doesn’t mean you have to miss out.

These are not sin free – there’s sugar and chocolate and other wicked things but we all crave a treat now and then and these are so good.

Wheat has become a contentious topic. Lots of people find they cannot tolerate wheat without some nasty side effects like reduced nutrient absorption, bloating, pain, intestinal aggravation and headaches. For those living with Coeliac Disease it’s a total game changer.

About 50 years ago some serious modifications occurred to mass produced wheat making it a shorter, tougher grain. It certainly helped solve some issues of demand but left us with a grain that is much harder to digest and one that contains introduced proteins that were never originally there. Few of us have the enzymes necessary to break it down and this can lead to a situation where bloating and intestinal upset, inflammation, overactive immune responses and blood sugar spikes wreak havoc in our bodies.

If you are dealing with any autoimmune disease such as Hashimoto’s or Graves Disease, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus or inflammatory bowel disorders you should stay well away from wheat. It is not your friend and is, in fact, feeding the immune storm driving your condition.

On a happier note – CHOC CHIP BISCUITS !!!!   There are lots of options in this recipe so tweak it to suit your own situation, choices or tastes.

Makes about 40 biscuits

2 eggs or 2 tablespoons of flax seed meal mixed with 100mls of water.
125gr butter, vegan butter or coconut oil
1/2 cup nut butter – I use almond
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup caster or coconut sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon each of bicarb soda and baking powder
2 cups of raw or roasted almonds
2 cups gluten free oats
2 teaspoons good quality salt
1 cup chocolate chips ( you could swap this for raisins, cranberries, nuts, crystallised ginger etc)

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Mix together flax seed meal and water if using.

In a food processor blend the almonds till they become a fine meal. Pour into large mixing bowl. Process oats in same way to make oat flour. Mix in baking powder, bicarb and salt.

In a separate bowl use electric mixer to blend together butter and and nut butter. Add in sugars and vanilla and beat for a couple of minutes. Add in flax seed mixture or eggs and mix till combined.

Mix together wet and dry ingredients then stir in chocolate chips. The mixture should be a bit sticky – if it’s too dry add a splash of milk.

Roll heaped teaspoons into balls and place on baking trays leaving plenty of room for spreading. Bake for 14-18 minutes at 180 degrees. Allow to cool on trays before moving to cooling racks.

If you don’t need 40 biscuits all at once you can roll mixture into balls and freeze. When ready to cook let them thaw for an hour or so then cook at usual.

 

Here is the ‘cheesecake’ you’ve been waiting for ….

cheese rasp

Like most of my favourite recipes this one cropped up kind of by accident in a moment of kitchen madness. I felt like cooking but not really eating (go figure) so thought I’d try to make a cheesecake that my vegan daughters could enjoy.

Inspired by the avocado chocolate mousse I made a while ago – https://naturocath.wordpress.com/2015/08/08/just-when-you-thought-you-couldnt-have-chocolate-mousse-anymore/   I decided to tweak it a bit to make it more able to hold its own. The end result was decadent, chocolatey, smooth and creamy. It does have some maple syrup but contains no refined sugar, no wheat or dairy so it’s great if you are trying to move away from these things.

It’s so easy to make – all you need is a food processor. No baking or beating. It all came together in about 15 minutes.

Hold onto your hats ….here we go….

NaturoCath Chocolate Cheesecake

Base – You can make a standard biscuit base or this nut and date version.
2 cups whole almonds
15 medjool dates
1 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon each of coffee and cinnamon (optional)

Place nuts and dates in food processor and whiz till chopped. Add coconut oil, salt, coffee and cinnamon. Blend until this mixture forms a ball. Press this into a lined springform pan and place in fridge while you make the filling.

Filling

3 medium ripe avocados
3/4 cup coconut oil
1 1/2 cups cocoa powder – you can substitute in some raw cacao or cocoa nibs here if you want
Big pinch of good quality salt ( like Maldon)
1/2 – 3/4 cup of maple syrup ( or other sweetener – agave syrup, rice malt, honey – add gradually tasting to get the right amount of sweetness for you )

Blend all filling ingredients until very smooth – scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times – depending on your machine this should only take a couple of minutes.

Pour filling over base, smooth and place in freezer for a hour or so until stabilised. Remove from freezer about an hour before serving and top with whatever you fancy. I used freeze dried strawberries, bashed with a rolling pin to make strawberry ‘dust’. You could also use whatever fresh fruit you enjoy most. Store in refrigerator if eating within a couple of days otherwise leave in freezer.

cheesecake

My new favourite salad… beetroot, pumpkin and walnut

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We are heading towards warmer weather so what could be better than a new salad to try. Quick to pull together, satisfying, healthy – Nothing beats a big healthy salad for nutrients, taste, weight management and freshness. This one is my new favourite .. I hope you like it too.

Beetroot, walnut and pumpkin salad

3 cups diced pumpkin
3 beetroot – peeled and diced
2 cups walnuts
1 tablespoon of butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon of paprika or chilli
Small block of feta cheese
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar ( I used a balsamic glaze because I like the sticky sweetness of it )
1 tablespoon honey
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
Lots of salad leaves – whatever you have in the garden or fridge is fine.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Place pumpkin and beetroot on a lined oven tray and bake until tender – around 30 minutes depending on the size of your pieces.
Melt butter in frypan and add walnuts tossing to coat. Add in salt, brown sugar and chill or paprika and stir until sugar is melted and nuts are coated well. Place walnuts on a baking tray and bake in oven for 8 minutes until golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

To make dressing mix together balsamic, honey, lemon juice and olive oil. I put them all in a jar and give them a good shake.

Place salad leaves on a large platter.Drizzle over dressing, toss through to coat leaves. Add pumpkin and beetroot. Crumble feta over the top. Add walnuts. Serve.

You could vary this by adding some orange or tangelo segments, blue cheese, avocado or pine nuts instead of walnuts. Mix it up to find the version you like best. Make sure you send me your winning variations in the comments section.

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Spanish Omelette – dinner in under 30 minutes

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Need a quick go-to dish that will have dinner on the table in under half an hour ? Maybe looking for a Sunday morning breakfast recipe or a lunch box alternative to sandwiches ?

Here it is – Spanish Omelette – full of crispy potatoes, sweet onions, garlic and fresh eggs – YUM.
Traditionally, the potato would be cut into slices and roasted with the onion and garlic before being added to the eggs. In order to speed things up I have altered the recipe but the results are still just as yummy.

Spanish Omelette 

3 large potatoes or sweet potato
1 large Spanish (red) onion
2 cloves garlic
olive oil
6 eggs
1/4 cup milk
salt and pepper
a good handful of parsley
a few sprigs of thyme (optional)

Method :
Heat a heavy based frypan and add a good splash of olive oil.
Cut potato into small cubes of about 1cm. Slice onions and garlic thinly.
Place potato in hot oil and fry for a few minutes until they start to soften. Add onion and keep cooking over medium heat until soft. When onions are soft and potato is crispy add garlic and cook for a minute or two. You don’t want to add the garlic too soon or it will burn and become bitter.
In a bowl whisk together eggs, milk, salt and pepper and herbs. Pour into frypan over potato and onions. Cook over a gentle heat for about 5-10 minutes checking regularly to make sure its not burning on the bottom. Once most of the egg has set you can either flip the omelette or, if you have an ovenproof pan, you can place in oven or under the grill to finish cooking the top.

Serve with a good grating of sharp cheese, a big salad and some avocado. This also goes well with a dollop of chutney or relish.

Just when you thought you couldn’t have chocolate mousse anymore …..

mousse

I have just whipped up a batch of chocolate mousse to take to our friends house for dinner tonight. When she said one of the guests was vegan I took the plunge and made this delicious version of an old classic. Don’t be frightened off by the avocado – I was wary at first but now that I have tasted it and licked the spoon and the bowl and the inside of the food processor I can guarantee that this is one recipe you want to try.

With only 220 cal per serve you can think of this as a not-so-naughty way to indulge.

Avocado Chocolate Mousse

2 ripe avocado
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
160ml coconut cream
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 tablespoon good quality vanilla
140 grams of the best dark chocolate you can get your hands on ( I used 85% cocoa)

Melt chocolate over simmering water or in the microwave. Allow to cool slightly.
Place all other ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth and creamy – this only takes a minute or two. Pour in the melted chocolate and pulse until combined.

Spoon between 6 small bowls and chill in fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Serve with berries, chopped nuts or mint if you have them.

Warm Kale and Pumpkin Salad …

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This salad ticks all the boxes. Warm and hearty, fresh and tasty. Leftovers are great for lunches. You can add whatever is in your fridge to change it up – feta, other vegetables, cranberries or pomegranate, nuts. With raw kale, barely cooked green veggies, healthy carbs and seeds you can’t go wrong.

Warm Kale and Pumpkin Salad
2 cups cooked quinoa or brown rice ( I like to use some of both)
2 cups cubed pumpkin or sweet potato
2 cups of mixed green veggies – beans, asparagus, broccoli, zucchini
3 cloves garlic- leave skin on
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup stemmed and finely chopped kale
3 spring onions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons of seeds – pepita, sesame, pumpkin
1 small bunch of kale, finely shredded
Sliced avocado
FOR THE DRESSING:
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp honey
pepper to taste

*** Tip – If you like a creamy dressing place some of the avocado into the dressing ingredients and whiz in a blender.
Directions:

Put quinoa or brown rice on to cook as per packet directions.
Preheat oven to 180 C. Place chopped pumpkin/sweet potato and garlic cloves on trays in a single layer. Drizzle over a little olive oil and roast till soft – about 20 mins. Give them a shake every now and then to make sure they crisp up on all sides.
Place prepared greens in a pot of boiling water until almost cooked then remove from heat. Leave lid on to keep warm.
Chop kale and spring onions.

Make the dressing by whisking the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. Set aside.

When the pumpkin is done remove garlic cloves and set aside. Spoon the pumpkin and greens into a large serving bowl. Gently stir in the quinoa/rice and the cooked green vegetables. Add onions and kale.
Trim the end off each garlic clove and push the roasted garlic out and mash. Whisk the garlic into the dressing. Pour the dressing onto the vegetables/rice/quinoa and toss to coat.
Season with salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle over seeds and serve immediately with sliced avocado.

Asian Omelette … dinner that tastes great, is good for you and ready in 10 minutes …

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You’re driving home, it’s only 5pm but it’s already dark, it’s cold and you want something quick and yummy and good for you.

Here it is … Asian Omelette …. full of vegetables, protein and flavour.

Whisk together :

6 eggs
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon of besan (chickpea four) (optional but it does taste good and holds things together well)
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Filling :

1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 clove garlic
6 spring onions
1 cup chopped mushrooms
2 cups of snow peas
1 small head broccoli chopped into small florets
2 cups Asian greens – bok choy, pak choy

Heat oils in wok, add broccoli, mushrooms and garlic and cook over medium heat for a few minutes – you don’t want to burn the garlic. Add spring onion, snow peas then lastly add Asian greens and fry till wilted. Turn off heat.

Heat a small frypan or omelette pan and lightly coat with oil. Pour in 1/2 cup egg mixture and swirl around pan. Cook over high heat and flip when almost cooked through. Remove to plate, spoon over vegetable mix and fold omelette over itself.

Top with crushed peanuts, coriander, mint, mung bean sprouts and a drizzle of ketchup manis or oyster sauce.