Peppy Living

Peppy Living for the Eco-Anxious

Category: Beans For Beef

stuffed squash

Stuffed Squash

I found these cute little squashes from our local green grocers and just had to do something with them. Stuffing is always a good idea and this recipe is perfect for the Halloween season. This is a veggie version to suit my vegetarian man, but feel free to add bacon or substitute the lentils with minced meat.

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 small squashes
  • Avocado oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 1 courgette
  • 1 small bell pepper
  • 1 tin of lentils
  • 2-3 fresh tomatoes
  • Seasoning, herbs
  • 100g grated cheese

stuffed squash

Aren’t they pretty?

stuffed squash

First a little top tip: shaving a little bit off the bottom of the squash will make them sit better on the tray, and will save you a lot of frustration along the way.

The squashes are really tough and hard to carve, so I just scooped the seeds out, brushed them with avocado oil and roasted in the oven until the flesh was soft and easy to scoop out. The skin is quite tough, so they won’t slump like courgettes if cooked ripe at this point. The time needed for roasting depends on the size of the squashes, these ones took about 45 minutes.

stuffed squash

While the squashes are roasting, prepare the stuffing. Fry garlic and onion in a dash of oil and add other vegetables, chopped to nice small bites. Add stock or seasoning and lentils and simmer until vegetables are just softening. This not the sexiest looking filling, as the lentils turn everything brownish green, but it doesn’t matter, as all will be nicely hidden under a cheese crust.

Once the squashes are soft, scoop the insides of them out, chop and add to the stuffing. Then fill the squashes with the stuffing and cover with grated cheese. Roast in the oven until the cheese has melted and turned nice and brown.

 

stuffed squash

These bad boys are super-filling, so I served them only with a bit of braised savoy cabbage. One is enough, actually, so this portion served me twice. Don’t hesitate to eat the skin, too. It’s the best bit!

 

almond milk and berry shake

Almond Milk Berry Shake

Drinking lots of milk in the morning gives me tummy ache, so I’ve been trying alternatives like soy milk, which I quite like although it takes a little getting used to. However, soy milk is often sweetened and there seems to be a bit of controversy over its health benefits as it apparently raises estrogen levels. Recently I’ve seen a lot positive comments about almond milk, so decided to give it a go.

You can make almond milk by blending almonds and water and filtering the leftover almonds out, but it’s also easily available in supermarkets so I didn’t bother. Verdict? Yummy! On its own it definitely has the distinctive flavour of almonds, so not sure how well it would work with cereals and such. The texture is much thicker and creamier than in skimmed milk or soy milk, which I liked. I  just love the subtle nutty flavour it adds to this berry shake. This immediately became my favourite breakfast.

Ingredients:

  • 250 ml/1 cup of almond milk
  • 250 ml/1 cup of frozen berries
  • 1 banana
  • 50 ml/ quarter cup of walnuts
  • 50 ml/ quarter cup of pumpkin seeds

almond milk berry shake

The raw ingredients. The walnuts and pumpkin seeds add crunchiness and keep the hunger at bay till lunch time. You can try using cashew nuts and sunflower seeds, if preferred.

almond milk berry shake

Ready for a spin in the blender. The frozen berries cool the shake nicely.

almond milk and berry shake

Elegantly served in a Guinness pint glass.

Nutty Green Curry

I believe you can never go wrong with Thai food. It’s just beautiful, fragrant, tasty, light and filling all at the same time. This is a veggie version of the good old chicken green curry, where I substituted chicken with nuts. The secret to a good home made green curry is in finding really good curry paste, which can be a tough job. I suggest shopping at ethnic food shops and trying out different pastes until you find the one that does the trick. The rest is easy.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 large courgette
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 2 carrots
  • 1/2 litre or 2 cups of water
  • 1 stock pot or cube or salt
  • 1 sachet of green curry paste
  • A handful of cashew nuts
  • 1 tin of coconut milk

nutty green curry

Ahh… look at the rainbow colours of these veggies. Carrots are probably not the most orthodox choice for a thai curry, but I like the bit of crunch they add to the mix.

nutty green curry

Fry the veg lightly and add the curry paste. Add water and stock or seasoning. I find you still need a bit of salt despite the curry paste. Let the vegetables cook until they are al dente, 15-20 minutes will probably do. Careful, they are very easy to overcook!

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If you’re in the UK I can recommend Sharwood’s thai paste. It’s really good, available in all supermarkets and costs 99p.

nutty green curry recipe

Add the cashew nuts and the coconut milk. Then quickly bring the sauce to boil. If you boil the coconut for long it will lose its lovely coconuttiness, which I like. I also like to add the cashew nuts towards the end as they can become soggy and chewy if added with the veg in the beginning.

nutty green curry recipe

Serve with jasmine rice and garnish with fresh coriander. If you have any left over, you can also add a bit more stock and eat it as a soup the next day.

 

Toms & Tortellini

Tomatoes were the most successful thing that my Gardening Experiment produced. Over the weekend I got rid of the plants for the winter and harvested the remaining fruit. That means I have plenty of tomatoes, so it was time to do something with them and quickly.

I usually make this sauce with tinned tomatoes, but this time I used fresh ones. What a world of difference it makes! I didn’t bother with poaching and peeling the tomatoes like you’re supposed to. The peels don’t really matter in my opinion.

This is super quick, cheap and tasty. Choose tortellinis that you like, there’s tons of varieties around. I used Spinach & Ricotta. This doesn’t look like very much, but the sauce is so rich that you don’t need a lot of it. Obviously keep adding more tomatoes, if you want more.

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 tomatoes, depending on size.
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 red onion
  • 1/2 yellow pepper
  • Fond, stock or salt for seasoning
  • A pinch of chilli

 

Tomatoes from the garden

Here are my beautiful tomatoes. Remains to be seen whether the green ones will mature off the vine before going off.

 

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Chop the garlic, onions tomatoes and peppers and fry them in a pan. Season and simmer until all have softened. If you need a bit of extra liquid, add some water. The sauce is ready when tomatoes are all mushy. This will take about 15 minutes.

 

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Tortellinis take about 3 minutes to cook, so I do them once the sauce is ready. Garnish with fresh basil.

Aubergine Bolognese

Aubergine bolognese is another one of my favourite recipes for the cold autumn and winter nights. I picked up the recipe idea from an Italian restaurant. Their “Pasta Norma” had a few aubergines and tomatoes tossed in spaghetti. I made it a bit heartier, and turned it into a bolognese-style sauce. This is super simple to make, but takes quite a long time to simmer, so don’t start cooking if you’re already starving. But it’s totally worth the wait!

Ingredients:

  • 2 aubergines
  • 1 red onion
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp of tomato puree
  • 2 stock pots (or cubes)
  • Herbs (thyme, sage, rosemary)
  • A generous pinch of chilli flakes

 

aubergine bolognese

Chop the vegetables. Cut aubergines into fairly small cubes so they cook a bit quicker. You don’t need to “sweat” them with salt, as they’ll be thoroughly soaked in stock anyway.

 

aubergine bolognese

Fry the onions and garlic in a bit of olive oil. Add aubergines and fry for a few minutes. Add a tin of tomatoes, then fill the tin with water and add it to the pan. Follow with tomato paste and stock pots or cubes. At first this looks like a lot of food, but it will condense. Cover with a lid, reduce the heat so that it just about simmers and get on with your life.

 

aubergine bolognese

After about 30 minutes the aubergines are starting to soften, and the sauce looks a bit runny. Give it a good stir, and go back to doing something else.

 

aubergine bolognese

After another 20 minutes or so the aubergines are starting to break up and create that lovely bolognese texture. They might start sticking to the bottom of the pan, which is fine. Just give them a good stir to help the texture break up even more. This is a good time to add the herbs and chilli.

 

aubergine bolognese

This is another 15-20minutes later. The sauce is done when all the liquid has soaked in and the aubergines have broken down into a thick sauce.

 

aubergine bolognese

Serve with pasta, grated cheese and full bodied red wine. Did I already mention that the rich, savoury flavours are just fantastic?

 

The Gardening Experiment

As I hit my fourth month of pregnancy in April, I felt that it was time to get in touch with nature, play the good Earth Mama and get some of my own, tasty, non-toxic veggies growing. We have a lovely South-facing garden which already had a vegetable patch from the previous owners. Unfortunately the patch is almost totally in the shade. However, I did a bit of research to find some plants that wouldn’t mind shadier conditions and found quite a few decent suggestions. So off to the Garden Centre we went.

Dressed for gardening success

 

Oh the joy that this hard boiled city girl had digging her hands in the filth and soil, chasing the creepy crawlies and pulling out weeds. I could already picture myself a few months later, lovingly tending to my little patch, picking plump beans, leafy cabbages and peppery celeriacs. I could already taste their untainted, home grown flavours.

It wasn’t long before I realised I wasn’t the only one lusting for my vegetables. The garden was quickly filled with snails and slugs, which spent way more time tending to my vegetables than I did. At first I bought some non-toxic slug-repellent. It is grit, which is supposed to keep the slugs away by creating an unpleasant surface for them to crawl over. Yeah, right. I found them happily rolling in the grit, munching my veggies away. It soon became apparent to me that this was going to be a full on war. I had to get some heavier artillery – proper poison pellets, although I tried to use them sparingly and keep them away from the veggies. This worked better, and I was soon able to harvest dozens of slug corpses while my veggies had the chance to grow.

Lovely bean pods and an evil, vicious snail.

Lovely bean pods and an evil, vicious snail.

 

I also planted herbs, salad, tomatoes and peppers in pots. These could be kept in the patio, which is filled with sun. I wrapped copper tape around the pots to keep the slugs away and this worked well. The only attacks I got, were from the walls, when the sneaky buggers parachuted into the pots straight from the walls, thus evading the copper fencing. Luckily these attacks were much less frequent than what my poor vegetable patch had to endure and I was able to save many plants by simply picking the snails off as I spotted them.

Cherry tomato success

Cherry tomato success

 

Everything was looking pretty promising. Although the patch was very shady, the vegetables were growing at a staggering speed reaching out to the sunnier end of the patch. The potatoes started sprouting quickly, the cabbages grew huge, and the beans had nice big pods. The peas were nearest to the wall and most preferred by the slugs, so they didn’t get much of a chance. I decided to accept the defeat. I took the opportunity to put most of the poison pellets near the peas, and rubbed my hands in joy when observing the slug casualties.

From left to right: potatoes, celeriacs, cabbages, broad beans and peas.

 

I started to get the first harvest in early July. The tomatoes and herbs were doing fantastically. The tomatoes ripened a few at a time, which was perfect, so I could get enough for a salad when I needed them, but I didn’t have to store them and worry that they’d go off. The tomatoes are still doing well now in September and I haven’t been buying any all summer. Success! The peppers look promising but they haven’t grown very big.

I went away on a holiday for three weeks. I gave the patch a good slug pelleting before I left, and hoped that things would work out while I was gone. There was enough rain and a bit of sun too, so all should have been well. Well it wasn’t. I found some new inhabitants upon my return. This time it was caterpillars – swarms of them – and they had turned my cabbage leaves into cabbage lace. Bitter defeat.

Cabbage lace. Spot the caterpillar family at the bottom of the picture.

 

The potatoes were starting to flower and wilt which apparently means its time to harvest them. Also the celeriacs were about to flower, which means they are no longer growing underground. The beans were also looking plump, so I took out my tools and decided to pick the fruit of my hard labour. This is what I got:

The entire harvest of my vegetable patch. All of it.

 

The potatoes had looked good but there were hardly any underground. The celeriacs were just a bunch of little roots. The cabbages were shredded by the caterpillars and peas eaten by slugs. The beans looked good in the stalks, but when picked, there weren’t that many after all.

Suddenly I feel huge respect for the farmers that provide the abundance of large, beautiful, colourful vegetables that fill the endless isles of our supermarkets. The amount I was able to produce in four months isn’t enough to provide me and my husband even one decent meal. I really hope the food crisis isn’t hitting us yet, because I am hopeless  at this with a life expectancy of about a week as soon as the Tesco down the road stops providing us. Truly an eye opener.

It makes me feel a bit better to hear that my more seasoned vegetable growing friends have had equally disappointing results this year. There has been too much rain and too little sun to really get things growing. I’m still very happy with the pot plant success, and will definitely have some more of them next year. As of the vegetable patch, I think the slug war is very hard to beat, so I’ve told my husband that if he wants another shed, I know a great place in the garden, where he can put it.

Celeriacs - epic fail

Celeriacs – epic fail

 

Peas - a total annihilation.

Peas – a total annihilation.

 

Herbs on the kitchen window sill make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

 

Bell peppers - close but no cigar

Bell peppers – promising… sort of.

 

Stuffed Courgettes

This is one of my favourite veggie recipes, although it can easily be beefed up for the ones that have a taste for something meatier. It looks a bit more involved than it actually is with all the hollowing of the courgettes, but since the courgettes cook so quickly, this is not a big slave-job in the kitchen. This recipe is for 2 people, but can easily to be reduced or expanded to your needs.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large courgettes
  • Avocado Oil
  • 3 chunky cloves of garlic
  • 2-3 tomatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • Seasoning
  • Grated cheese
Additional ingredients, if you like:
  • Mushrooms
  • Bacon
  • Minced meat or Quorn

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Split the courgettes and brush with avocado oil. You can use any oil of course, but I find avocado oil really brings out the flavours in vegetables. Stick the courgettes in the oven at about 180 C.

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While the courgettes are cooking, chop the garlic, onions and tomatoes and fry them in the pan. If you use mushrooms, bacon or mince add it here. You might want to use a little less tomato to fit everything in. By the time you’re done, the courgettes have probably softened enough so that you can spoon out the middle bits of them. Put the courgettes on the side to wait for stuffing. Chop the courgette that you’ve just spooned out and mix with the stuffing. Season with salt and pepper.

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Spoon the stuffing into the courgettes and top with grated cheese. Pop the courgettes back in the oven until the cheese has melted and got a bit of colour. That’s about 10minutes or so.

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The courgettes are delicious with mash. I served them with some raw pesto pasta.

Raw Pesto Pasta

In my quest for more energy I’ve become increasingly interested in raw food recipes. The smoothies, juices and salads include a massive amount of fresh vegetables, and it’s just common sense to me that they must pep me up. I also want to make something that doesn’t give me a post-dinner food coma.

Today I decided to try a raw food pesto pasta recipe. The “pasta” is really just shredded vegetables but it all sounds very nice, so I thought I’d give it a go.

Ingredients:

Pasta

  • 1 whole courgette
  • 4 carrots
  • Some salt
Pesto:
  • A large bunch of fresh coriander
  • 1/2 cup or 120ml of walnuts
  • 1/4 cup or 60ml of olive oil
  • 3 tbs of lemon juice or one small lemon squeezed
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • A pinch of chilli flakes

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I shredded the carrots and courgettes using a mandoline on a very fine setting. It was my first go on a new mandolin, and I nearly sliced some pinky finger there too…nearly. I then coated the “pasta” with salt for 10 minutes, rinsed and drained well. This makes the veg a bit more limp and pasta-like.

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Here are the ingredients for the pesto. I put them in a jug and pulsed them with a stick blender. I added a little bit more oil than was in the recipe, as the pesto felt quite thick. I also think the lemon comes through quite sharp, so I might use a little less next time.

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Pasta and pesto mixed together. I served it with chicken, although pure raw foodists would have this on its own. To my surprise this was ab-so-lute-ly fabulous. I loved the crunch of the veggies, and the pesto worked really well with the sweetness of the carrots. Chicken goes beautifully with it, and it was nice and filling, without being heavy. Highly recommended!

Two Shades of Smoothie

No one said growing a baby was going to be easy, but lately I have been absolutely exhausted. I also get hungry couple of hours before lunch time. Smoothies are touted as the great energy giver. They should also keep the hunger at bay for a good few hours.

I decided to make two versions, one with fruit only, and another one with added spinach. Spinach is loaded with iron and Vitamin K so it should perk me up too.

Ingredients:

  • 3 Oranges
  • 1 Lemon
  • 1 Lime
  • 1 Banana
  • Half a melon
  • Large handful of spinach
  • 8 ice cubes

Fruit Galore

It’s going to be a fruit galore…

Citrus goes in first

I chopped the citrus fruit first, as they have a skin, which can use a bit more blending than the rest of the ingredients.

Melon and banana follows

I then added the banana and melon.

Keeping it fruity

Here’s the fruity version of the smoothie. Really nice and very sweet despite the lemon and lime. It’s a bit thicker than I’d like, so adding ice cubes makes it more drinkable.

Adding some spinach action

Adding some spinach action to the rest of the mix.

Going green

It looks so dodgy it must be good for me! Actually it still tastes really sweet and fruity.

Verdict:

The texture in both versions is a bit thick to my liking, so adding ice cubes made it easier to drink. Peeling the citrus fruit is a pain in the butt, and making this thing took me about 20 minutes, which is more than I’d like. But the taste is fantastic, and I’m probably having all the fruit I’ll need all day. Now I’m waiting to see if it also manages to pump my energy levels up.

 

 

Lush Leftover Bake

Todays recipe is an easy and yummy bake made from yesterdays leftovers and a few bits in the fridge that are in danger of going off. You can use pretty much anything you like for this dish.

Ingredients:

Leftovers from yesterday’s bbq:
2 grilled courgettes
Half a grilled green pepper
1 slice of grilled halloumi

Leftovers from the fridge:
Half a cauliflower
Leftover crudites: carrots & red peppers
1 red onion
3 cloves of garlic

For the bake:
200g whole meal pasta, boiled
200ml stock
300ml milk
2 eggs
200g grated cheese

Dice all the leftovers. Cook the pasta in salted water. Grease an oven proof dish with a bit of olive oil. Mix all the leftover with the veg and pour in the oven dish.

Leftover shenanigans

Mix stock, milk and eggs well. Pour over the veg and top with grated cheese. Bake in 175 C for about 30 minutes or until the eggs start to firm and the cauliflower is tender. I served the bake with – you guessed it – a leftover coleslaw from yesterday’s bbq. Delicious!

Dinner is served

 

Salmong & Asparagus

Steamed Salmon and Asparagus with Spinach Stir Fry

I like to cook fish in a steamer. Not only can you cook without fat, but the steamer keeps all the fishy smells inside, so that your kitchen doesn’t smell like a chip shop for the next few days. Also, steaming locks all the flavors in, so the fish is really tasty with hardly any seasoning.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Salmon fillets
  • 1 red onion
  • 5 gloves of garlic
  • 100g mushrooms
  • 160g (half a pack) of cherry tomatoes
  • 120g (half a bag) of spinach
  • Oil for frying
  • 10 Asparagus stems

Place the asparagus in the steamer and steam for 5 minutes. Add the fish and steam for further 10 minutes. Meanwhile put a bit of oil on the frying pan and fry the garlic and the onions. Add mushrooms and a little bit of water. Simmer until the onions and mushrooms are tender. Season with salt and pepper. Add tomatoes and spinach, and cook quickly until the spinach is tender. Remove from heat before the spinach gets too soggy.

Salmong & Asparagus

Salmon & Asparagus

Place the stir fry, the asparagus and the salmon on a plate. Season the fish with freshly ground salt and pepper. Celeriac salt works really well, too! You can also sqeeze a bit of lemon on the fish and the asparagus. I also like to add a cheeky dollop of butter. The lemon and butter serve as a nice sauce. If you want to make this extra special, add a small sprinkle of pine nuts on top.

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