How to make the best of your Broccoli

Do you benefit from cooking seasonal vegetables?  Going for fruit and veg when in season is kind to your health and to your pocket.

From October through to April, broccoli are at their best. They’re not expensive to buy and you can use them in a variety of ways. Once harvested, the shelf-life of the broccoli is rather short and a yellowish hue is the first indication that the broccoli head is not fresh.  When shopping, choose broccoli heads which are tight and heavy in weight.

If you buy your veg from a farmers market or similar, ask for broccoli heads with leaves intact. Ideally, you get organic vegetables but if it’s not possible, wash your broccoli head and leaves well, under running water to remove all traces of pesticide.

Why are Broccoli good for you?

Broccoli are a member of the cabbage family.  Together with a number of other vegetables such as kale, collard greens, bok choy, brussels sprouts and a number of others, they’re known as cruciferous vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables are loaded with vitamins and promote weight loss.

Broccoli are often referred to as a superfood.  The florets are a great source of vitamins K and C.  They also provide folic acid, potassium and fiber. The leaves are also high in fibre and they are an very good source of vitamin A, thiamin, niacin, pantothenic acid, calcium, iron, selenium, vitamin C, riboflavin, folate, and potassium.

Baking your broccoli is one way of enjoying this super nutritious vegetable.

Quinoa with Roasted Broccoli and Almonds

Broccoli leaves are tender and nutritious.  For maximum benefit, eat your broccoli florets and chopped leaves raw, by adding them to your salad. Broccoli leaves can also be sautéed or baked in the oven.

Quinoa with Roasted Broccoli and Almonds
Prep Time
15 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
45 mins
 

This warm salad provides you with protein from the quinoa, healthy fat from the almonds and plenty of vitamins from the broccoli head and its leaves.  A cup of broccoli also provides you with 11 grams of carbohydrates and 3 grams of protein.

Course: Main Course, Salad
Cuisine: Plant-based
Servings: 2 people
Author: Colette Cumbo
Ingredients
  • 2 Fresh onions (you can use leeks)
  • 1 Medium-sized broccoli head (leaves intact)
  • 10 Baby plum tomatoes (halved)
  • 2 tbsp Olive oil
  • 50 grms Roasted almonds (chopped)
  • 1 cup Quinoa (I used white, red and black quinoa)
  • 1 3/4 cups Vegetable stock
  • 2 tbsp Olive oil (extra virgin)
  • 2 tbsp Apple cider vinegar (raw)
  • 2 tbsp Lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Maple syrup
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)
Instructions
  1. Peel onions and rinse vegetables under running water

  2. Break broccoli head into florets and tear leaves into pieces (do not tear them into tiny pieces). 

  3. Line a roasting dish with heavy duty foil, place the broccoli florets, onions and tomatoes.  Add 2 tbsp olive oil.

  4. Roast at 200C for 10 minutes. Bring dish out of the oven and add the broccoli leaves. Turn with a spatula so that the leaves get a light covering of oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for a further 10 minute.

  5. In the meantime, rinse the quinoa under running water and bring the vegetable stock to the boil. Tip in quinoa and stir well. Cover with tight fitting lid, bring back to the boil and lower heat to a simmer.  Simmer for 12-13 minutes until stock is completely absorbed.

  6. When stock is absorbed, turn off the heat and leave the quinoa to stand for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

  7. In a screw top jar mix the extra virgin olive oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice and maple syrup.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Shake well.

  8. Mix quinoa with roasted vegetables and plate.  Serve with roasted almonds on top and 2 tbsp dressing.

My thanks go to:

Dr Axe and

Plant Smart Living

 

Curried Soups Will Make You Feel Warm

Do you find soups to be a complete meal in a bowl?

Curried Marrow and Sweet Potato
Curried Marrows and Sweet Potato Soup with Roasted Cashews

This is one of those soups which I knocked together, on the spur of the moment, with store cupboard ingredients.

 

The result is a heart-warming and nutritious comfort food, ideal for a cold winter’s day.  It makes an excellent meal for the lunch box as well as a satisfying supper, when eaten with some crusty bread.

 

 

Curried Marrows and Sweet Potato with Roast Cashews
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
50 mins
Total Time
1 hr
 
In this soup, the curry enhances the mild taste of marrows and sweet potato. It gives the soup a kick - a come-to winter warmer. The ground cashews add bite and body to the soup.
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Plant-based
Servings: 4 people
Author: Colette Cumbo
Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil (raw)
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • fresh ginger (one inch piece)
  • 2 tbsps curry powder (medium heat)
  • 800 grms marrows (long thin ones)
  • 350 grms sweet potato (with skin on)
  • 900 ml vegetable stock
  • 165 ml coconut milk (full fat)
  • 70 grms roasted cashews (ground)
  • 10 grms roasted cashews (whole)
  • coriander leaves
  • salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Wash marrows and scrub sweet potato - chop roughly.

  2. Roughly mince chopped onion, garlic and ginger in food processor. (If you do not have a food processor or chopper, chop very finely with knife).

  3. In a large pot, heat coconut oil and add minced onion, garlic and ginger. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid sticking or burning. Add the curry and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant.

  4. Add the roughly chopped marrows and potatoes to the curry mixture and stir until vegetables are well-coated. You may need to add some of the vegetable stock, if the mixture is too dry.

  5. Lower the heat, cover the pot and sweat the vegetables for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

  6. Pour in the vegetable stock. Shake the canned coconut milk well and add, along with the stock. Give the soup a good stir and cover with a tight-fitting lid.

  7. Bring to the boil, lower the heat to barest minimum and simmer for 25 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave soup to cool for 10-15 minutes.

  8. With a hand blender, process the vegetables until smooth and stir in the ground cashews.

  9. Warm soup gently for a few minutes, stirring in the cashews to blend completely. Season to taste.

  10. Serve piping hot with whole roasted cashews and coriander.

Recipe Notes

 

Sweet potatoes are a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals.  They're packed with vitamin A (beta-carotene), essential for good vision and to help the immune system.  They are also a good source of vitamin C, manganese, copper, pantothenic acid and vitamin B6.  Sweet potatoes are also a source of dietary fibre, niacin, phosphorus, vitamins B1 and B2.

Marrows are very low in calories but their nutritional value packs a punch. The peel of the marrow is rich in beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant which can help prevent free radicals from causing damage to DNA tissue.

Cashews, similar to all other nuts, are a good source of unsaturated fat.  Eaten in moderation, nuts and seeds form an essential part of a healthy, plant-based diet.

 Coconut milk provides a plant-based protein which is good for you. But both coconut milk and oil contain saturated fats - best you use these in moderation. 

 

Sharing is caring.  Share this recipe with your friends and ask them to let me know what they think.

 

Which Diet Works For You?

Are you one of the 32% of the population who made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight? Or maybe, you’re one of the 38% who plan to exercise more.  Either way it suggests you would like to improve your lifestyle.

All good … but with all the diet plans floating around, how would you know which diet plan works best for you?

Fad diets come and go – celebrity diets, blood type diets, the new Atkins diet, Rosemary Conley, Whole Food Plant-based diet (WFPB) – the list is endless. A number of them are supported by sound marketing plans and are pretty expensive, too. No surprise it all gets so confusing.

Which diet is best for you?

The best diet for you is called “Moderation”.

It is true that if you follow a diet low in carbs, you lose weight.  Likewise if you eliminate fat from you diet.  If you’re a gym fanatic and workout 6-7 days a week, you are also likely to lose weight.

If you eliminate a food group (carbohydrates, fat or protein) from your diet, you will lose weight (unless you replace the calories with a different food).  But how sound and sustainable will your diet or lifestyle be?

If a healthy lifestyle was one of your New Year’s resolutions, moderation is key.  If you are aiming at weight loss, portion size matters.

What do you understand by a “balanced diet”?

The word “diet” has become synonymous with food restriction.  This is not the case.  The primary definition of the word “diet” is:  the kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats.

A balanced diet is a plan that is sound and sustainable. It is sociable and you do not “come off” a balanced diet after a number of weeks.

  • A balanced diet provides you with the nutrients your body needs to function properly.
  • It also provides you with the right amount of energy.  If your energy intake is greater than your expenditure, you will gain weight and vice versa.
  • Sufficient fluids (not alcohol) are an integral part of a balanced diet.
  • A balanced diet is low in refined sugar and salt.

What foods make up a balanced diet?

Eatwell GuideIn order to function properly your body needs both macro nutrients (carbohydrates, fat and protein) as well as micro nutrients (vitamins and minerals).

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are the main source of food for the brain and must be available in constant supply for the brain to function properly.  Carbs are found in foods such as bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, cereals, fruits and vegetables. It is recommended that 50-55% of your energy intake comes from unprocessed whole grains, pulses and vegetables.

Fat

Eliminating fat or following a low fat diet can have serious consequences.  Fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) cannot be transported round the body in the absence of fat. Besides, fat provides the body with energy, insulation, cell construction and prevents evaporation.  Good sources of fat are oily fish, avocados, nuts and seeds. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of fat is 33% of your energy (calorie) intake.

Protein

Protein is found in meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes (to mention but a few sources). It is an essential food group, however, contrary to popular belief, your body does not require huge amounts.  The RDA is 1g / kg of body weight – which equates to approximately 10% of your energy intake.  The body cannot store excess protein.  When intake exceeds requirements, it is either eliminated in urea or stored as fat.

Vitamins and minerals

Your body’s requirements of vitamins and minerals is tiny when compared to carbs, fat and protein. If you are eating a variety of unprocessed foods, especially fruit, vegetables and legumes, your intake of vitamins and minerals should be sufficient.

Your New Year’s resolutions are SMART

A healthy lifestyle is achievable and sustainable.  It’s certainly not as overwhelming as it sounds.  If you manage a balanced diet (in the right portions), keep yourself hydrated and include 30 minutes of activity every day, you’re guaranteed quality of life.

Contact me for help with your weight loss programme.

 

My thanks go to:

NHS UK

Google Dictionary

Harvard Health Publishing

NHS Guidelines

Livestrong.com

Telegraph.co.uk

Image: Public Health England and Wales

What does your traditional Christmas dinner consist of?

Merry Christmas to you, loyal followers of my blog posts.

Have you ever thought how Christmas was celebrated a few decades ago?  What was a traditional Christmas dinner like? On the spur of the moment, I thought I’d have a quick look at Christmas in Malta, not so long ago.

At the time, Malta being a devoutly Catholic country, Christmas centred around ecclesiastical celebrations.  In the run up to Christmas, young children participated (some still do, today) in a procession around the village (il-purcissjoni tal-bambin), carrying a figure of the baby Jesus and singing Christmas carols along the way.

Christmas
Baby Jesus, black treacle rings and imbuljuta

The Christmas crib and baby Jesus were typical decorations of every household with midnight mass, on Christmas eve, being the highlight of Christmas celebrations.  During this mass, a young boy was chosen to deliver a heart-felt Christmas sermon.  Another tradition that’s still around, to this day.

A tradition which seems to have died over the years is the traditional Maltese Christmas meal.  Turkey was not always on the Christmas menu.  In most  families, the Christmas menu consisted of a fattened capon (ħasi) accompanied with baked potatoes (patata l-forn) and a selection of seasonal vegetables.  Very often, the big bird and potatoes were cooked – kind-of baked but not exactly roasted – in a very large, tailor-made dish. On Christmas day, in the morning, housewives and husbands alike would take their dishes to the local bakery – home ovens were not large enough to cook the traditional Christmas meal. Crusty, local bread was typically served with the meal to mop up the juices from the bird and potatoes.  Usually, vegetables were cooked at home.

The main course was followed by a pastry ring stuffed with black treacle.  Nowadays, these traditional sweets, known as treacle rings (qagħaq tal-għasel), are found at local confectioneries, but they do not necessarily form part of the Christmas meal.  They’re more likely to be served at tea time.

As if that wasn’t enough, the traditional Christmas meal would end with a thick, warm drink of stewed chestnuts and cocoa (imbuljuta tal-qastan).  The warm, thick, chocolaty beverage was also the go to drink after midnight mass and throughout the cold, winter months.

I remember my mother cooking a traditional Maltese Christmas lunch.  What was Christmas lunch like, when you were younger?

My thanks go to

Azure.com – Top 5 Christmas Customs in Malta
A Maltese Mouthful
Ilovefood.com.mt
196flavors.com

Image:  Introduzzjoni ghall-ikel u nbid ta’ Malta – Puligraf Publishing

 

 

 

 

Meal Planning Made Easy

Hi! Good to be back! It’s been very busy indeed, with plenty of study and a fair amount of experiments in the kitchen.

Speaking of cooking … a blessing or a curse?  A pleasure for some but a headache for others.  Would you like some tips on  how to make your meal planning easy?

I came across “Planning Meals” in my course work Childhood Nutrition and Obesity Prevention and it inspired me to share these tips with you.

As a working mother, I always found meal planning very helpful.  But when my children left home, I was less fussed about planning meals. Old habits die hard and when I came across this section in my notes, it rekindled a passion from the past.

Historically, I used to spend a good couple of hours, typically on a Sunday afternoon, leafing through my cookery books.  I love it; so relaxing (agreed – not everybody’s cup of tea!) But the advent of the Internet changed all that!

From my course work I picked this very good tip – “theme nights” – which inspired me to write this piece and share it with you. Here goes …

Write down your “theme nights” – example: Monday – pasta; Tuesday – fish; Wednesday – mince / grains / pulses; Thursday – rice; Friday – soups / salad; Saturday – kids’ favourite meal; Sunday – family treat out / old favourite recipe.

There are various meal planning apps these days. Alternatively, you can go for a more flexible approach and run a search for the food you’d like to eat. Keep your searches simple – do not choose complicated recipes with plenty of ingredients – unless you are blessed with time on your hands.  The trend is five-ingredient recipes.

Refine your searches as you go – browse by ingredients instead of recipes.  If you have leftover pasta in the fridge and a broccoli head that’s losing it’s bright green colour, Google “pasta with broccoli” and presto! You end up with a number of recipes to choose from. It’s that easy!

Ask your kids for their suggestions, even if they’re still young.  Involving your family with meal planning will make it less likely you have complaints at supper time and instills good habits in kids.

What are the benefits of meal planning?

  • Meal planning saves time, effort and stress;
  • It’s cost effective;
  • You have all your ingredients readily available;
  • You can work around commitments by preparing ahead.

 

The secret behind successful meal planning is not how detailed your plan is, but how varied.  Make it interesting – present a rainbow of colour and texture with every meal.  Ensure meals contain carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats to meet your family’s nutritional needs.  Look for seasonal offers, especially at your vegetable man and buy local produce.  Local fruit and veg in season, is likely to save you money and give you a product that’s more fresh than it’s imported counterpart.

Download your weekly menu planner, courtesy of Future Fit Training School of Nutrition, to get you started.

Weekly Menu PlannerWeekly menu planner (1)

My thanks go to:

Future Fit Training School of Nutrition
Lifehacker.com – Five Best Meal Planning Apps
Allrecipes.com – 5 Ingredient Recipes
Seriouseats.com – Dinner tonight: Pasta e Broccoli Recipe

 

How To Make Your Perfect Salad

Are you a salad person?  Not everyone is, but in the summer heat, nothing beats a fresh salad.  Most salads do not require any cooking, saving you hours sweating it out in the kitchen to prepare your meals.  Quick, easy and packed with healthy nutrients.

As if that’s not enough, salads can help you lose weight, as part of a calorie-controlled diet and the water content in fruit and veg helps in keeping you hydrated.

What do you understand by “salad”?

According to the English dictionary, the definition of a salad is: “A cold dish of various mixtures of raw or cooked vegetables, usually seasoned with oil, vinegar, or other dressing and sometimes accompanied by meat, fish, or other ingredients.”

Whether you are having a side salad with your meat or fish, or you’re having a salad as a main, remember that greens are an essential part of your salad.

Ingredients for a tasty salad

Indeed, greens are an important ingredient when making a salad. However, it is not appetising to be served with a mountain of salad leaves and a small topping of sorts.  The ‘perfect’ salad contains a balanced amount of ingredients and their taste and texture compliment one another.

When making your own salad, go for the freshest seasonal produce you can find.  Buying seasonal vegetables saves you money and they taste better, too.

Wash your vegetables thoroughly and dry them well (using a salad spinner or a clean tea towel) and cut them into bite-size pieces. Keep it simple; do not throw everything you find in the fridge into your salad.  The tastiest of salads are made up with a handful of ingredients.  A couple of salads that come to mind are the caprese and the Greek salad.

Variety is the spice of life … be adventurous with your ingredients.  Replace your meat or fish with grains or legumes – such as spelt, kamut, lentils, buckwheat, barley or quinoa (a seed not a grain) – to give your salad substance.

Make your salad as colourful as possible by including a variety of leaves and/or vegetables. Add texture to your salad by adding fresh or dried fruit, toasted nuts or seeds, olives and capers.

Making your own dressing

Season your salad and add fresh herbs to enhance the taste.  Finally, toss your salad in a delicate dressing of infused olive oil or make your own mixture of olive oil and lemon juice or vinegar (apple cider or balsamic).  For extra taste you can add ginger, garlic and whole grain mustard to your oil.  Put all the dressing ingredients in a screw top jar and mix well.

Here’s five classical recipes, courtesy of OliveTomato.com, to get you started.

My thanks go to

 

OliveTomato.com

Epicurious.com

Google.com for images