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a healthy journey


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KAYAKING AND SORE MUSCLES – Carrot and lentil salad

Yup, it hurts when I laugh today, my shoulders are sore and i found some new strange muscles in my underarms that I never knew i had.. I owe it all to my amazing dad who took me out kayaking yesterday. It was a beautiful day with sunshine for the most part and a nice relaxing lunch on a tiny private ‘beach’.

Do you know how good a carrot lentil salad tastes when it’s combined with some Greek ingredients after you’ve been kayaking for a few hours.. Pretty damn good.

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Carrot and lentil salad
(Serves 2 hungry kayakers)

200 g lentils (puy or green)
4 carrots – grated
1/2 leek – thinly sliced
1 large handful of pistachios – roughly chopped

Dressing
2 garlic cloves – crushed and chopped finely
1 heaped tbsp of tahini paste
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
Juice from 1/2 an orange
A few tbsp of olive oil
A pinch of salt

Combine the lentils, with the roughly grated carrots, the sliced leek and chopped pistachios. Make the dressing by mixing the ingredients together, the tahini will make this dressing a bit thicker and almost creamy. Pour the dressing over the carrot-lentil-leek combo and season with salt and black pepper.

Enjoy this together with your dad who brings a greek salad and two kayaks.

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What is Tahini? Tahini is a paste of ground sesame seeds used in North African, Greek, Turkish and middle eastern cuisine. Commonly used as a side dish, or as an ingredient in hummus. I love mixing it into my dressings to make them creamy and nutty flavored or as a spread on rice crackers.


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MOREISH HUMMUS

Ok, so you have just cooked a big batch of those yummy nutritious chick peas. There are so many tasty things you can use them for but the best a simplest way is still in my mind the Moroccan spread, hummus.

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Did you know that it’s super easy as well? All you need to do is to mix the following ingredients in a food processor. Yes, that’s all there is to it.

500 g cooked chickpeas
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1 heaped tbsp tahini paste
2 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 pinch of salt

You can also add..
Paprika powder
Chili
Sun dried tomatoes
Harissa
… or coriander, or basil, or parsley or ..

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Nutrition and health benefits of chickpeas:

1. Nutrients and protein: Chickpeas has good source of folic acid, manganese, iron, copper, magnesium and molybendum. They also provide fat free and high quality protein.

2. Lower your risk of heart disease: Regular consumption of chickpeas or garbanzo beans can lower bad cholesterol and total cholesterol levels. Studies also shown that chickpeas can lower the risk of heart disease.

3. For Women: Garbanzo contain phytochemicals called saponins, which can act as antioxidants. It could lower the risk of breast cancer, and protect against osteoporosis. It also minimizes hot flushes in post menopausal women.

4. Iron for energy: Chickpeas can boost your energy because of their iron content. If you’re pregnant or lactating, your needs for iron increase. Children and adolescents also have increased needs for iron.

5. Weight Loss: Due to high fiber content, chickpeas are good for weight loss diets. Salad with chickpeas are tasty and also keep you full longer which helps to control the appetite. Iron is an integral component of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen from the lungs to all body cells.

6. Manganese: Chickpeas has excellent source of trace mineral manganese. It is an essential cofactor in a number of enzymes in energy production and antioxidant defenses.

7. Molydenum: Molybendum is a mineral for body’s mechanism to detoxify sulfites. Sulfite-sensitive individuals may experience headaches, confusion and a racing heartbeat.

8. Low glycemic index: High fiber and low glycemic index content of chickpeas prevents blood sugar or blood glucose levels from rising too rapidly after a meal. Legumes can be digested very easily because of their high fiber content. Chick peas is a great choice for individuals with diabetes, insulin resistance or hypoglycemia.

9. Constipation: Dietary fiber prevents constipation and digestive disorders.

10. Calcium: Chickpeas has significant source of calcium. Some sources quote it as equal to milk and yogurt.

P.S Although convenient, most canned chickpeas contain significant amounts of sodium — over 700 mg per cup. Also the canning and storing process reduces some of the nutrition of the beans. Have a look here on how to cook dry chickpeas.

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RAW COUS-COUS

Maybe you’ve heard about the little trick of blending cauliflower into small pieces to make it look like cous-cous, if not – pretty smart huh!? But hey, this recipe actually makes the cauliflower taste like you are sitting at a dinner table in Morocco!

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Ok so lets start with the little yummy chickpeas which are practically a staple in Middle Eastern cooking. Obviously you can use tinned chickpeas but with a little extra time on your hands its really easy to cook your own. And if you cook a big batch you can make hummus at the same time, its the best snack to have ready in the fridge for those days when you fancy something lush and creamy.

Before cooking dried chickpeas, the first thing you will have to do is soak them. Cover the peas completely with cold water and let them sit over night.

Once soaked, drain and transfer to a large cooking pot. Cover with water twice the amount of chickpeas and bring to a boil. Let the chickpeas simmer for approximately one hour. Have a taste before draining, make sure they are soft (especially if you want to make hummus with the rest of your batch).
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To make the spice mix, blend the following ingredients together. (Obviously your salad will taste a million times better if you toast and ground the spices yourself)

1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 pinch of ground cayenne pepper

And for the rest of the salad you will need

1 medium sized cauliflower head
200 g chickpeas
The peel of half an orange
The juice of half an orange
1 handful of almonds
1 handful of sultanas
4 spring onions
2 tbs virgin olive oil
A pinch of salt

Blend the cauliflower in a food processor until you have small cous-cous look a like pieces.

Mix the orange juice, the finely chopped orange zest – use an organic orange and try to not get any white pith with the peel since it can taste really bitter, olive oil, half of the spice blend and a good pinch of salt. Ad the dressing to the cauliflower and mix well.

Chop almonds, spring onions and the sultanas and mix with the rest of the salad. This is also the time to stir in your chick peas.

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Serve on its own or as a side dish to a flavorful tagine or some spicy koftas. Cous-cous – so nice you have to say it twice!


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THE DAY RHUBARB MET POMEGRANATE THERE WAS MAGIC – lemonade & popsicles

When I was little I used to be scared when walking past the jungle of rhubarb growing in our garden. I have, since childhood, had a very silly but non the less genuine phobia of frogs. I know this might sound stupid but I’ve always been convinced that there would be a large coloni of frogs living underneath the large rhubarb leaves, waiting to jump at me as soon as they would get the chance.

Armed with a knife I ventured out into the garden yesterday and quickly cut the largest stem I could find and ran off as fast as I could. Victory was going to taste sweet and refreshing.

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The same morning I had made a little healthy shopping trip into town, there is a pretty good health store chain in Sweden called Life and I go there to top up my spirulina stash every time I’m home. At the checkout the cashier convinced me to try their new non sweetened and no preservatives added pomegranate juice… A few hours later I’m standing in my moms kitchen with my giant rhubarb in one hand and the little carton of pomegranate juice on the counter. This is what I did..

The rhubarb got chopped into small pieces and put to simmer in two liters of water together with 3 heaped tablespoons of honey. When the water was reduced to half I poured in the pomegranate liquid and simmered for another 15 min. The flavors of the sweet rhubarb mixed with the tangy pomegranate was a surprisingly well made match. The lemonade was afterwards placed in the fridge to cool.

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But this isn’t all. After I’ve later enjoyed a beautiful tasting glass of my super quick lemonade a new idea came to mind. Inspired by this recipe I started to look for the ice Popsicle molds we had as kids but without any luck. A few small plastic cups had to do and together with BBQ skewers my refreshing desert was on its way.

In the evening I was happily slurping away – Ice popsicle taste just as good when you are 29 as when you where 9…

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Pomegranates have very high content of punicalagins, a potent anti-oxidant component found to have superior health benefits. They are also a good source of vitamin B (riboflavin, thiamin and niacin), vitamin C, calcium and phosphorus. The combination of these and other minerals in pomegranates cause a powerful synergy that prevents and even reverses some diseases.

A new study has shown that drinking pomegranate juice frequently is extremely beneficial in fighting the hardening of arteries (atherosclerosis). It reduces the oxidation of bad LDL cholesterol which contributes to artery clogging and hardening. Not only does this fruit significantly reduce the blood vessel damage, it is found to actually reverse the progression of this disease.

Another study positively proved that pomegranates contain a powerful agent against cancer, particularly prostate cancer.

Rhubarb is an excellent source of Vitamin C, which is important to help support a healthy immune system. It is high in dietary fiber which helps to maintain regularity within the digestive system and is a good source of calcium which is essential for strong bones and teeth. It is also high in Vitamin K, which is thought to help prevent diabetes.


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SUMMER DINNER – Warm fennel salad & Garlic polenta with vegetables

As a way of getting plenty of energy into our bodies before Sweden’s football game against England the other night I cooked up a quick but tasty dinner. Unfortunately we lost the game but I still think that we put up a good fight and at least it kept me sitting at the edge of the sofa for a few hours.

Anyway enough about football and more food talk. So this is what we got to enjoy for dinner, a warm fennel salad as a starter, followed by garlicky polenta served with fresh vegetables. The evening sun even made it possible to eat outside without too many sweaters on!

The starter…
Warm fennel salad with Chèvre chaud
This is a tasty salad with many lush flavors that works as a whole dish or as a starter which was our approach this time.

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Fennel bulb
Green leaves (arugula, spinach or what ever you can find)
Pomegranate
Crumbly goat cheese
Flat bread
2tbs honey
100 ml balsamic vinegar
Canola oil
Salt (preferably Himalayan, Hawaiian or some other salt that hasn’t been deprived of all it’s minerals)

Start with scoring your pomegranate with a knife and break the fruit in half with your fingers. Its the arils (seed casings) that you are after, separate these from the peel and the white pulp membranes and place in a bowl, put aside for later.

Cut the fennel into thin pieces (still intact at the bottom) and cook them in a grill pan together with a small amount of canola oil. You want the fennel to stay crunchy so use a quite high heat and wait until the fennel got some fancy stripes on each side, remove and let rest on paper towels.

The goat cheese is cut into 1 cm discs and placed on a pice of flatbread each, drizzle a little sweet honey on top and place in a hot oven (180C). You want the cheese to get a nice colour but keep an eye on the bread so it’s not getting burned.

Let the balsamic vinegar simmer together with a small squeeze of liquid honey until its half it’s original volume.

Make the salad. Start with a healthy layer of your lush greens and top with the fennel, spread a pinch of salt on top. Place the cheesy flatbreads on your plate and drizzle a few table spoons of the reduced balsamic vinegar on your salad. Finally, let a few handfuls of the red sweet pomegranate seeds finish of the dish.

The main…
Garlic polenta with sweet leek, grilled carrots and pea sprouts for luck.

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Serves 4
1 cup polenta (not the instant kind)
4 – 6 cups light vegetable broth or water
4 small carrots
1 large leek
Pea sprouts
1 whole garlic bulb
A big bunch of basil
Pomegranate (the leftovers from the fennel salad)

Preheat the oven to 200C. Peel away the outer layers of the garlic bulb, leaving the skins of the individual cloves intact. Using a knife, cut off the top of the bulb, exposing the individual cloves of garlic. Place the garlic heads in a baking pan, drizzle olive oil on top and cover with aluminum foil. Bake for 30 min.

Heat the vegetable broth to a boil, ad a pinch of salt to the water if you are using a home made broth. Place the peeled and halved carrots in the water and let them simmer for a minute or two, you just want to pre cook them, don’t get them too soft. Put aside after you’ve given the carrots a few squeezes of lemon.

When the carrots are out of the water it’s time for the polenta, make sure you stir constantly as you slowly pour the polenta into the pot. Keep on stirring for a couple minutes, reduce heat and simmer. Stir every five minutes or so. If the polenta becomes too thick, add hot water. The polenta will take approximately 30 minutes to cook.

While polenta is puttering away on the stove slice the leek diagonally into 4 cm long bits. Fry these with a pinch of salt in a pan until they get colour. Cover and leave on the side. Use a grill pan and place the carrots with the cut side down, fry until you have pretty stripes across the carrots.

Remove the garlic cloves from its bulb and finely chop them together with the basil leaves. Ad this to the finished polenta, you can tell the polenta is cooked when you rub a small amount of it between your fingers and it is no longer gritty, the final consistency should be creamy and smooth. If desired you can also ad grated Parmesan cheese to the polenta now.

Assemble your dish by placing a few spoonfuls of polenta on a plate. Ad the leek, two carrot halves and as a last thing pat yourself on the shoulder as you top with pea sprouts and the remaining pomegranate seeds.

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