Friday 30 September 2016

Meat Free Monday: Five scrumptious vegetarian recipes to fuel your week

Food can be powerful fuel, both physically and emotionally, says Calgary Avansino whose new book of vegetarian family recipes has one simple message - when it comes to cooking, keep it real!

Published 21/02/2016 | 02:30

Broccoli meatballs from Keep It Real by Calgary Avansino. Hodder & Stoughton Publishers 2016
Broccoli meatballs from Keep It Real by Calgary Avansino. Hodder & Stoughton Publishers 2016
Vegan lasange from Keep It Real by Calgary Avansino. Hodder & Stoughton Publishers 2016
Black bean burgers from Keep It Real by Calgary Avansino. Hodder & Stoughton Publishers 2016
Cashew thumbprint cookies from Keep It Real by Calgary Avansino. Hodder & Stoughton Publishers 2016
Keep It Real by Calgary Avansino. Hodder & Stoughton Publishers 2016

I was raised on the west coast of America (Nevada and California) by parents who taught me from a young age the importance of cooking meals from scratch, the power of eating real food and the role nutrition plays in looking and feeling your best.

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I was lucky to be immersed in that environment during my most impressionable years, and what I learned then - mostly just by watching and experiencing - has stuck with me throughout my life. Of course I went though a rebellious teenage period when I ate rubbish (and felt rubbish) but everything I had learned re-emerged when I came to my senses, and from then on my interest and passion in health and wellbeing has only grown.

I'm not a nutritionist or a trained chef; however, the things I most definitely hold degrees in are being a working mum to three children, a wife and a friend and colleague who loves cooking, eating and feeding others healthy food.

I believe more than anything else in the importance of eating real food. And let me be clear about exactly what that means: food that is grown in the soil, on trees and on bushes with the sun's energy. Boxes of cookies, bars wrapped in plastic and packages of refined foods are not real. They are manufactured in factories and contain an endless array of processed ingredients.

To transform your health and your life together we need to go back to the basics of food. Change will not happen for you until you prioritise real and wholesome foods that are created by Mother Nature, rather than by an assembly line. This is what plant-based living is all about.

Don't think that just because you have always eaten in a certain way it will be impossible to change. For some people it will mean making adjustments on many levels, starting in the brain with daily habits, however it will not be impossible. I love the saying 'everything seems impossible until it is done'; in this case maybe it should be '…until you have started'.

'Burger night' at our house is always a highly anticipated meal - it's guaranteed fun to stack your own with lots of favourite toppings to make it bespoke. I am always trying new vegetarian burger recipes but this is one of my family's top choices and we make it over and over again. Try serving these with a fresh spinach salad, topped with toasted pine nuts and chopped apple.

Black bean burgers

Makes 4 burgers

You will need

225g cooked black beans or 1 x 400g can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 garlic clove, chopped

½ onion, roughly chopped

Juice of ½ lemon

1 medium egg yolk, beaten

25g flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

25g Parmesan, finely grated

40g toasted breadcrumbs (use gluten-free if possible)

2 tsp Dijon mustard

½ tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

1 tbsp cumin

Method

Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas 5. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Pour half of the black beans plus the garlic, onion and lemon juice into a food processor. Pulse until smooth.

Place the mixture in a mixing bowl and add the other half of the black beans and all of the other ingredients. Mix together so that everything is incorporated and well combined.

Divide the mixture into four and shape into burgers. Place in the fridge for 15-30 minutes on the prepared baking sheet to firm up. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until they are cooked through.

Vegan lasagne

2016-02-20_lif_16808840_I4.JPG  

I love the comfort of baked pasta dishes so I wanted to create a lasagne that was oozing with plant-based goodness but still made me feel all fuzzy inside. If you aren't vegan, you can add shredded mozzarella and grated Parmesan to each layer.

Serves 8

You will need

For the tofu sauce:

4 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 carrot, finely chopped

1 celery stick, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

4 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes

5 tbsp tomato purée

2 bay leaves

700g firm tofu

Pinch of cayenne pepper

1 large handful of basil leaves, chopped

1 large handful of flatleaf parsley, chopped

Salt and pepper

For the lasagne:

3 large courgettes

2 tbsp olive oil

800g fresh spinach (or frozen, thawed and drained)

½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

200g dried, no pre-cook lasagne sheets

200g mozzarella and/or Parmesan (optional)

Method

To make the sauce, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, then add the chopped onion, carrot, celery and garlic and sauté for around 10 minutes or until soft. Then add the tomatoes, tomato purée and bay leaves. Stir well, turn the heat to low and let the sauce simmer, covered, for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, pat the tofu with kitchen roll to remove excess moisture. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and then crumble in the tofu. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until the excess water from the tofu has evaporated and the tofu and the pan appear dry. Stir in the cayenne pepper and remove from the heat.

Once the tomato sauce has cooked and reduced, remove from the heat and stir in the tofu. Stir well to combine and leave the tofu to infuse in the tomato sauce while you prepare the courgettes.

Cut each courgette lengthwise into 0.5cm slices. Heat a griddle pan over a medium heat, lightly brush the courgette slices with the oil and griddle them in batches so you achieve nice char marks and the courgettes are tender. As they cook, remove them to a large plate. Season lightly with salt and pepper and repeat to cook the remainder.

If you are using fresh spinach, place half in a large colander, sit the colander in the sink and boil a kettle of water. Pour the boiling water over the spinach; this will cook the spinach so it wilts. Refresh with cold water, then squeeze out the excess water and place in a sieve while you repeat with the remaining spinach. Once all cooked, give it a final squeeze to extract any excess water still remaining, then place on a chopping board and chop well. Season with salt and nutmeg.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 4. Remove the bay leaves from your tomato sauce and add the chopped basil and parsley. Season to taste.

To assemble the lasagne, spread one ladle of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a 23 x 33cm baking dish. Arrange a single layer of lasagne sheets on top, followed by a third of the wilted spinach and then a third of courgette, then sprinkle with cheese (if using). Then add another layer of sauce and repeat the process two more times so your lasagne has three layers of pasta sheets and finishes with a layer of sauce and (if using) is topped with cheese.

Cover the lasagne with aluminium foil and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes or until the pasta sheets are cooked. If you have added cheese to the top of your lasagne, remove the foil and cook for a further 10-15 minutes or until the cheese has begun to turn golden.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving. If you are freezing, let it cool completely and then place in the freezer in individually wrapped portion sizes.

The much loved traditional meatball is a classic and a staple in many households, so I wanted to create a plant-friendly version that my kids would still plead for and my husband and I could enjoy as a meal. Voilà — I give you the broccoli ‘meatball’. You can serve these the traditional way — topped on spaghetti with a homemade tomato sauce — or you can enjoy them as I do: with hummus and a big green salad or as part of a mezze selection. Either way, these are the new definition of comfort food.

Makes 12 (serves 3-4)

 

You will need

275g broccoli florets (about one large head)

125g plain almonds (not roasted, salted or sweetened)

1 large egg

10g basil leaves, finely chopped

10g flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

5g coriander leaves, finely chopped (optional)

10g finely grated Parmesan cheese

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste

Salt and pepper

 

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 4 and line a baking sheet with baking parchment.

Place your broccoli florets in a steamer and steam for approximately 10 minutes, until tender and still bright green, rather than mushy and going grey; keep checking them with a knife to ensure they don’t overcook. Once steamed, refresh in cold water to stop the cooking and leave in a colander to drain.

In a food processor or high-powered blender, grind the almonds until they are a fine powder and place in a mixing bowl. Then pulse the steamed broccoli in the food processor or blender until finely chopped (not puréed) and place in the bowl with the almonds.

Whisk the egg in a separate small bowl, then add to the mixing bowl along with the basil, parsley, coriander, if using, Parmesan, garlic and cayenne pepper, and season with salt and pepper.

Mix everything well, until thoroughly combined, then using your hands, make approximately 12 ‘meatballs’, pressing them firmly together to be sure they retain their shape.

Place the balls on the baking sheet, making sure they are not touching. Pop in the oven for 25 minutes or until they are just turning golden brown.

Get your kids involved with rolling the balls as it can be lots of fun. However, make sure they wash their hands thoroughly afterwards due to the raw eggs.

 

My kids are my most trusted recipe testers — I try everything on them first. Sometimes I get a ‘that’s OK’ or ‘that tastes weird’, but these super-easy raw cookies got a ‘Mummy, these are delicious! Can I have another?’, so my bet is you’ll like them too. All you need is a food processor and a refrigerator to make these tasty little bites.

Traditional ‘thumbprint’ cookies are topped with jam but these aren’t exactly traditional! I personally like them left plain and just dusted with a bit of cinnamon or cacao powder, but you could also top them each with an individual raspberry, a blueberry, a whole cashew, a small chunk of dark chocolate or carob.

Makes 15

 

You will need

100g plain cashews

3 tbsp coconut oil, softened

2–3 Medjool dates, pitted

2 tbsp plain sunflower seeds (not flavoured or roasted)

1 tsp vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

75g rolled oats (gluten-free if possible)

 

Method

Simply throw everything — except the oats — in a food processor and blend until it has the consistency of a thick paste. Scrape down the sides of the food processor a few times as needed.

Then add the oats and pulse again until everything is blended together. If at this stage the mixture doesn’t quite hold together sufficiently, add another date and pulse again.

With your hands, roll the dough into 15 small balls and place on a baking sheet. (I usually put baking parchment down on the baking sheet just to make cleaning up easier.) Push down the centre of each cookie with your thumb.

Place the sheet in the refrigerator for 2–6 hours, until firm, and keep them stored there afterwards in an airtight container. They will last for seven days.

 

Extracted from Keep It Real by Calgary Avansino, photography by Kristin Perers, published by Yellow Kite, £25

 

I was raised on the west coast of America (Nevada and California) by parents who taught me from a young age the importance of cooking meals from scratch, the power of eating real food and the role nutrition plays in looking and feeling your best.

I was lucky to be immersed in that environment during my most impressionable years, and what I learned then — mostly just by watching and experiencing — has stuck with me throughout my life. Of course I went though a rebellious teenage period when I ate rubbish (and felt rubbish) but everything I had learned re-emerged when I came to my senses, and from then on my interest and passion in health and wellbeing has only grown.

I’m not a nutritionist or a trained chef; however, the things I most definitely hold degrees in are being a working mum to three children, a wife and a friend and colleague who loves cooking, eating and feeding others healthy food.

I believe more than anything else in the importance of eating real food. And let me be clear about exactly what that means: food that is grown in the soil, on trees and on bushes with the sun’s energy. Boxes of cookies, bars wrapped in plastic and packages of refined foods are not real. They are manufactured in factories and contain an endless array of processed ingredients.

To transform your health and your life together we need to go back to the basics of food. Change will not happen for you until you prioritise real and wholesome foods that are created by Mother Nature, rather than by an assembly line. This is what plant-based living is all about.

Don’t think that just because you have always eaten in a certain way it will be impossible to change. For some people it will mean making adjustments on many levels, starting in the brain with daily habits, however it will not be impossible. I love the saying ‘everything seems impossible until it is done’; in this case maybe it should be ‘…until you have started’.

‘Burger night’ at our house is always a highly anticipated meal — it’s guaranteed fun to stack your own with lots of favourite toppings to make it bespoke. I am always trying new vegetarian burger recipes but this is one of my family’s top choices and we make it over and over again. Try serving these with a fresh spinach salad, topped with toasted pine nuts and chopped apple.

Makes 4 burgers

you will need

225g cooked black beans or 1 x 400g can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 garlic clove, chopped

½ onion, roughly chopped

Juice of ½ lemon

1 medium egg yolk, beaten

25g flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

25g Parmesan, finely grated

40g toasted breadcrumbs (use gluten-free if possible)

2 tsp Dijon mustard

½ tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

1 tbsp cumin

Method

Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas 5. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment. Pour half of the black beans plus the garlic, onion and lemon juice into a food processor. Pulse until smooth.

Place the mixture in a mixing bowl and add the other half of the black beans and all of the other ingredients. Mix together so that everything is incorporated and well combined.

Divide the mixture into four and shape into burgers. Place in the fridge for 15–30 minutes on the prepared baking sheet to firm up. Bake in the oven for 15–20 minutes, until they are cooked through.

I love the comfort of baked pasta dishes so I wanted to create a lasagne that was oozing with plant-based goodness but still made me feel all fuzzy inside. If you aren’t vegan, you can add shredded mozzarella and grated Parmesan to each layer.

Serves 8

You will need

For the tofu sauce:

4 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 carrot, finely chopped

1 celery stick, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

4 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes

5 tbsp tomato purée

2 bay leaves

700g firm tofu

Pinch of cayenne pepper

1 large handful of basil leaves, chopped

1 large handful of flatleaf parsley, chopped

Salt and pepper

 

For the lasagne:

3 large courgettes

2 tbsp olive oil

800g fresh spinach (or frozen, thawed and drained)

½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

200g dried, no pre-cook lasagne sheets

200g mozzarella and/or Parmesan (optional)

Method

To make the sauce, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, then add the chopped onion, carrot, celery and garlic and sauté for around 10 minutes or until soft. Then add the tomatoes, tomato purée and bay leaves. Stir well, turn the heat to low and let the sauce simmer, covered, for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, pat the tofu with kitchen roll to remove excess moisture. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and then crumble in the tofu. Cook for 5–7 minutes, until the excess water from the tofu has evaporated and the tofu and the pan appear dry. Stir in the cayenne pepper and remove from the heat.

Once the tomato sauce has cooked and reduced, remove from the heat and stir in the tofu. Stir well to combine and leave the tofu to infuse in the tomato sauce while you prepare the courgettes.

Cut each courgette lengthwise into 0.5cm slices. Heat a griddle pan over a medium heat, lightly brush the courgette slices with the oil and griddle them in batches so you achieve nice char marks and the courgettes are tender. As they cook, remove them to a large plate. Season lightly with salt and pepper and repeat to cook the remainder.

If you are using fresh spinach, place half in a large colander, sit the colander in the sink and boil a kettle of water. Pour the boiling water over the spinach; this will cook the spinach so it wilts. Refresh with cold water, then squeeze out the excess water and place in a sieve while you repeat with the remaining spinach. Once all cooked, give it a final squeeze to extract any excess water still remaining, then place on a chopping board and chop well. Season with salt and nutmeg.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 4. Remove the bay leaves from your tomato sauce and add the chopped basil and parsley. Season to taste.

To assemble the lasagne, spread one ladle of the tomato sauce in the bottom of a 23 x 33cm baking dish. Arrange a single layer of lasagne sheets on top, followed by a third of the wilted spinach and then a third of courgette, then sprinkle with cheese (if using). Then add another layer of sauce and repeat the process two more times so your lasagne has three layers of pasta sheets and finishes with a layer of sauce and (if using) is topped with cheese.

Cover the lasagne with aluminium foil and bake in the oven for 25–30 minutes or until the pasta sheets are cooked. If you have added cheese to the top of your lasagne, remove the foil and cook for a further 10–15 minutes or until the cheese has begun to turn golden.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving. If you are freezing, let it cool completely and then place in the freezer in individually wrapped portion sizes.

Broccoli meatballs

2016-02-20_lif_16808866_I2.JPG  

The much loved traditional meatball is a classic and a staple in many households, so I wanted to create a plant-friendly version that my kids would still plead for and my husband and I could enjoy as a meal. Voilà — I give you the broccoli ‘meatball’. You can serve these the traditional way — topped on spaghetti with a homemade tomato sauce — or you can enjoy them as I do: with hummus and a big green salad or as part of a mezze selection. Either way, these are the new definition of comfort food.

Makes 12 (serves 3-4)

You will need

275g broccoli florets (about one large head)

125g plain almonds (not roasted, salted or sweetened)

1 large egg

10g basil leaves, finely chopped

10g flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

5g coriander leaves, finely chopped (optional)

10g finely grated Parmesan cheese

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste

Salt and pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 4 and line a baking sheet with baking parchment.

Place your broccoli florets in a steamer and steam for approximately 10 minutes, until tender and still bright green, rather than mushy and going grey; keep checking them with a knife to ensure they don’t overcook. Once steamed, refresh in cold water to stop the cooking and leave in a colander to drain.

In a food processor or high-powered blender, grind the almonds until they are a fine powder and place in a mixing bowl. Then pulse the steamed broccoli in the food processor or blender until finely chopped (not puréed) and place in the bowl with the almonds.

Whisk the egg in a separate small bowl, then add to the mixing bowl along with the basil, parsley, coriander, if using, Parmesan, garlic and cayenne pepper, and season with salt and pepper.

Mix everything well, until thoroughly combined, then using your hands, make approximately 12 ‘meatballs’, pressing them firmly together to be sure they retain their shape.

Place the balls on the baking sheet, making sure they are not touching. Pop in the oven for 25 minutes or until they are just turning golden brown.

Get your kids involved with rolling the balls as it can be lots of fun. However, make sure they wash their hands thoroughly afterwards due to the raw eggs. 

My kids are my most trusted recipe testers — I try everything on them first. Sometimes I get a ‘that’s OK’ or ‘that tastes weird’, but these super-easy raw cookies got a ‘Mummy, these are delicious! Can I have another?’, so my bet is you’ll like them too. All you need is a food processor and a refrigerator to make these tasty little bites.

Cashew Thumbprint Cookies

2016-02-20_lif_16808599_I5.JPG  

Traditional ‘thumbprint’ cookies are topped with jam but these aren’t exactly traditional! I personally like them left plain and just dusted with a bit of cinnamon or cacao powder, but you could also top them each with an individual raspberry, a blueberry, a whole cashew, a small chunk of dark chocolate or carob.

Makes 15

You will need

100g plain cashews

3 tbsp coconut oil, softened

2–3 Medjool dates, pitted

2 tbsp plain sunflower seeds (not flavoured or roasted)

1 tsp vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

75g rolled oats (gluten-free if possible)

Method

Simply throw everything — except the oats — in a food processor and blend until it has the consistency of a thick paste. Scrape down the sides of the food processor a few times as needed.

Then add the oats and pulse again until everything is blended together. If at this stage the mixture doesn’t quite hold together sufficiently, add another date and pulse again.

With your hands, roll the dough into 15 small balls and place on a baking sheet. (I usually put baking parchment down on the baking sheet just to make cleaning up easier.) Push down the centre of each cookie with your thumb.

Place the sheet in the refrigerator for 2–6 hours, until firm, and keep them stored there afterwards in an airtight container. They will last for seven days.

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