Noodles with Asparagus and Courgettes

Asparagus is one of those veggies that many people avoid to cook at home because of their characteristic taste, not so easy to pair and to prepare. The key is actually “keep it simple” – find a way to eat asparagus that you like and that at the same time allows you to celebrate them and really appreciate their flavour.

This Spring vegetable comes in several colours (green, purple, white) and it’s actually packed with nutrients*

  • low in calories
  • good amount of fibre (important to keep the body overall healthy)
  • rich in vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, A, K, and E – folate, potassium, phosphorus (folate is important for many processes in the body (among them, cognitive functions) and it’s a key nutrient for women who are pregnant or are planning a pregnancy – many other nutrients come in a smaller amount in asparagus, making this veggie really useful for our health and well-being)
  • good amount of antioxidants (important compounds that help us working as a protection from the effect of oxidative stress and free radicals – so, for example, they may help us dealing with inflammation and ageing)
  • being a source of potassium, they are one of those foods that help us get our daily intake of this important mineral (potassium helps to regulate blood pressure and the amount of sodium in the body – for many people, the daily diet is often rich in sodium and lacks in potassium)

Asparagus is also pretty famous for something else… the smell! Wondering why? What’s the chemistry behind asparagusAsparagus contains asparagusic acid, which our body converts into sulfur-containing chemicals that stink. In this interesting study published in the British Medical Journal, the researchers tried to know more about asparagus and our metabolism.

* if you have a specific medical condition, for example, uric acid kidney stones, talk to your doctor about having asparagus as part of your diet.

LET’S GET PRACTICAL! Here there is a simple recipe that will help you to fall in love with asparagus – it’s simple, rich in flavour, and really quick to prepare. You can use your favourite noodles, I have decided to go for the brown rice ones, that are pretty basic, and are a staple in my pantry (you never know when you’ll want to make a bowl of ramen or a stir-fry!).

Hope you’ll like it!

Chiara x
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Noodles with Asparagus and Courgettes

Ingredients
(serves 2)

  • 1 medium-sized courgette
  • approx. 200 g asparagus
  • 120 g brown rice noodles
  • 100 g plain tofu
  • 1 tbsp tamari
  • 1 tsp of freshly grated ginger
  • a pinch of black pepper
  • a pinch of hot paprika
  • black sesame seeds
  • some finely chopped Spring onions (to add on top before serving) – approx. 1 tsp of chopped pieces for each person, but you can also put some in a bowl and leave it on the table
  • extra virgin olive oil

Cut the vegetables (courgettes and asparagus) in thin slices (leave the tops of asparagus as they are) – chop the tofu into small cubes and mix it with the tamari, black pepper and paprika. Heat a little bit of olive oil in a pan and then cook the tofu until it starts to get golden brown on the outside, then add the vegetables, mix well, and keep cooking for a minute (the vegetables are thin and you want to keep them crunchy).

Cook the noodles in boiling water following the instructions on the package and when they will be ready, rinse with cold water, drain the excess of liquid, and add them to the pan – add also the grated ginger, mix well, and get ready to serve. Add a little bit of olive oil just before serving, together with black sesame seeds, and some finely chopped raw Spring onions.

 



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Talking about FODMAPS

WHAT ARE FODMAPS?
Fodmaps are short-chain carbohydrates that some people poorly absorb and digest
=> so in some people, they can cause digestive issues and aggravate the symptoms of conditions like IBS (for these individuals the fodmaps pass through most of the intestine remaining unchanged).

WHAT DOES FODMAPS MEAN?
FODMAPS = Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides and Polyols

FERMENTABLE: compounds that are broken down by bacteria in the large intestine
OLIGOSACCHARIDES: simple sugars connected together (in a polymeric structure)
DISACCHARIDES: double sugar molecule
MONOSACCHARIDES: single sugar molecule
POLYOLS: sugar alcohols

EXAMPLES OF HIGH FODMAP FOODS?*
Garlic, onions, beans, fermented cabbage, ripe bananas, dates, pears, apples, figs, cherries, peaches, wheat flour, spelt flour, semolina, rye, cashews, sweeteners, honey, agave milk, yogurt.

EXAMPLES OF LOW FODMAP FOODS?*
Squash, kale, ginger, courgettes, eggplant, carrots, olives, unripe bananas, kiwi, grapes, papaya, orange, beef, lamb, turkey, chicken, fresh cod-salmon-trout, crab, mussels, prawns, oats, rice, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, walnuts, butter, eggs, tofu, oils, cacao.
[*source: ibsdiets website]

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The LOW FODMAP diet has been studied especially in relation to people suffering from IBS and seems to be helpful in improving their quality of life (IBS = irritable bowel syndrome, a digestive disorder). A low fodmap diet can also be beneficial for people with other digestive-related diseases.

It’s IMPORTANT to remember that FODMAPS ARE NOT bad from a general point of view. But knowing more about them is a big step for people suffering from conditions affecting their digestive system.

IBS or other digestive issues can be not only difficult to manage, but also frustrating and cause of embarrassment. So, it’s even more important than usual for the people who are affected from this kind of health issues, to build a good relationship with their body, being able to love the food that they choose to put on the table, and feel a little bit more in control of how food affects their days. Things that can help: knowing your triggers (both regarding food and lifestyle), keeping a food diary, trying new ingredients or recipes (but also different portions) and keep track if they worked well for you or not.

 

 

 


Questions? Would you like to know how I can help you?Let today be the start of something NEW (44)

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Pasta with Tuna and Blood Oranges

I’ve prepared this pasta for the first time on a busy day in which I needed a quick solution for lunch and there were barely no veggies left in the kitchen… so I needed to come up with something new! What about mixing pasta, tuna and blood oranges? I had only 1 orange left, so I have used that one (plus some finely chopped orange peel) and some tuna: the pasta turned out ok, but it needed some major changes! What you will read below is an improved version of that original recipe: now you have a bowl of pasta tossed with a creamy sauce, rich in flavour and with a little bit of crunchiness coming from the pumpkin seeds – still quick and easy to make!

Hope you’ll like it! Chiara x

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PASTA WITH TUNA AND BLOOD ORANGES

Ingredients
(x 2)

140 g pasta of your choice (here I have used some whole grain spaghetti and their flavour pairs pretty well with the sauce)
3 blood oranges (peeled)
zest of 1/3 orange (if oranges are organic, otherwise you can use some organic lemon zest)
approx. 70 g of tuna (canned)
2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 tsp ginger powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
a pinch of cayenne pepper
a pinch of salt
extra virgin olive oil

Prepare the toasted pumpkin seeds and chop them finely. Peel the oranges (keeping some zest for later) and place them in a blender (remove the seeds before blending your oranges). In a pan, warm up your orange sauce with 2 tsp of tahini and the spices – mix well the tahini into the warm sauce to get a smooth texture and cook for approx. 5 minutes or even less, until you don’t get a creamy sauce. When the sauce is ready, stir in the tuna, half of the seeds and mix well (add also a little bit of olive oil if your tuna doesn’t have it). While you’re preparing the sauce, cook your pasta “al dente”, rinse it once with some cold water and drain it well. Add the pasta to your pan and mix it well with the sauce. Add some olive oil before serving and sprinkle some extra seeds on top.


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Chickpea Flour and Kefir Pancakes

It’s that time of the year once again, the Carnival season is almost at the end and most of us are getting ready for Pancake Tuesday or Fat Tuesday (depending on where you live). Last year, I have published on these pages a recipe for pancakes made with spelt flour and flaxseeds that are still one of the favourite recipes among my readers and clients. From my point of view, pancakes should be something that you can easily cook and fit into your healthy lifestyle: in such a simple way, you can turn a regular weekday breakfast into something special, even when you don’t have too much time (and yes, you can make them in advance). Prepare a batter using nutrient-rich whole foods, experiment with different flours or combinations, try to add some colour to your pancakes (beetroots, spinach, kale, cacao, turmeric… just to name a few)… then pair them with simple toppings that will add extra nutrients to your breakfast (yogurt, kefir, nut butter, fresh and seasonal fruit, salmon, cheese, avocado, etc… GET CREATIVE!).

For this recipe, I have prepared some simple crepes-style pancakes using only a few ingredients – they are filled with a delicious raw orange cream (it’s similar to one that I have already published here, but check below for the details). In addition, I have used some dark chocolate and fresh fruit as toppings.

An alternative: you can use the same recipe to make some delicious fluffy pancakes – adjust the batter using less water since you’ll need a thicker one (then I use 3 tbsp of batter for each pancake).

Hope you’ll like them as much as I do! Chiara x

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Chickpea Flour and Kefir Pancakes

Ingredients
(makes 6-7 large crepes-style pancakes)

For the batter:
150 g chickpea flour
100 ml plain kefir
300 ml water
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp extra virgin olive oil (for cooking)

For the cream:
2 blood oranges
5 dried apricots
1 ½ tsp ginger powder

Toppings:
some dark chocolate (85% or higher)
1 apple
1 small banana

To make the batter: in a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, kefir, water, and the baking powder. Stir until there are no lumps (add the water slowly in small portions – check if and when your batter needs more water). Let it rest for 5-10 min. Add more water if needed (the batter will be pretty liquid, to allow you to make these large and thin pancakes). Heat a frying pan, preferably a non-stick one, on a medium heat with ½ tsp of extra virgin olive oil. Use 5 tbsp for each pancake, moving the pan until the batter is evenly distributed and using a spoon to help you. Cook each pancake until it can be easily flipped with a spatula. Keep the batter well mixed. Using these quantities, you will be able to make approx. 6-7 pancakes (I usually consider 2 of them as serving size, and prepare more to use for a quick lunch or another breakfast – they keep well in the fridge for up to 3 days).

To make the orange cream: the recipe is similar to one that I have already published on these pages. Peel the oranges, chop them into small pieces and blend them with the chopped apricots and ginger (you can add in the blender some zest as well if you’re using organic oranges). Place the cream inside the pancakes or use half as filling and half as a topping.


 

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How to start bringing more awareness into your relationship with food

First of all: what does it mean EATING WITH INTENTION? In a few words, it’s related to the idea of being truly aware of the entire process of eating and don’t only mindless getting some fuel for your body.

You have probably noticed that the ideas of mindful eating and eating with intention are named pretty much everywhere lately. I absolutely love this kind of approach, but as soon as they became trends, it also started to be difficult to have a clear idea of how to apply them in the best way in your everyday life.

During the last years, I had the chance to apply the mindfulness-based approach to myself and I have found it pretty useful, both for general life issues and for the food-related ones. But I have tried to get a bigger view of it. When I talk with my clients about this kind of approach, I often refer to it in terms like “eating with intention”, “being present”, “being conscious of your relationship with food” – I use what I have learned during my holistic studies (I hold a diploma as massage therapist, and I have started practicing yoga in 2009), paired with science, to improve their relationship with food and with themselves.

Today, I’d like to drive your attention to the idea of bringing more awareness to the entire process of eating. First, let’s change that eating with nourishing – makes much more sense in relation to what we are talking about! Then, you may want to ask me: what’s included in that process?

  • your relationship with food
  • your relationship with yourself (your health, well-being, mind, and body)
  • what you choose to eat
  • your approach to grocery shopping
  • your approach to cooking
  • how you prepare your food
  • what you choose to put on your table
  • how you eat
  • your approach to the different meals
  • your relationship with dieting or ideal perfection guidelines or detox, etc…
  • your idea of healthy eating
  • how stress or a busy life affect your relationship with food
  • eating well seen as a form of self-respect
  • any food-related issue

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Let’s get practical with an example.

WHY WHEN YOU’RE STRESSED YOU COOK AND EAT AN ENTIRE CAKE ALL BY YOURSELF?

Eating well is a form of SELF-RESPECT. But ALSO understand the real reason why when you’re stressed you cook and eat an entire cake all by yourself is a form of self-respect. I could stay here every day telling you that eating an entire cake all at once is not healthy, how much sugar there is inside it, what happens in your body, etc… BUT if you don’t start to be more AWARE, things will remain the same.

I have always been the kind of person who puts all her energy and focus on what she does and I truly don’t think that this will ever change. But I have learned how to manage it better and how to take care of myself since I have seen on myself how much is difficult to stop before burning out. Now, I am definitely more aware of my body and its needs. BUT I also accept that sometimes I won’t be 100% connected with my body and that’s fine. I know that I’M TRYING TO DO MY BEST.

Something changes inside you when you decide to RESPECT yourself and your body.

ONE SIMPLE CHANGE that can help you on this pathway: start to bring more AWARENESS into your everyday activities. When we start to be more PRESENT, many things suddenly become much more clear. For example:

  • you stop making everything so hard for you
  • you want to know the real reason why when you’re stressed you cook and eat an entire cake all by yourself
  • you want to understand better why you are choosing to eat a specific food over another one

When you cook, eat, pack your lunch for the office, decide what to prepare for dinner, go for grocery shopping… really BE THERE. Connect with your food – really taste, smell, savour and appreciate it.

… remember: to get the best results, keep your mind open and allow changes to happen!


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My own soupe à l’oignon

Recently, I have been more focused on sharing tips and quick recipes on my social media pages, especially on Instagram, rather than publishing new stuff on these pages. I have also been busy writing some content for a lovely collaboration that started at the begin of the year. It’s with an Italian food blogger, Gaia from The Green Pantry – we are talking about how to rebalance and reconnect with your body using the idea of January as a fresh start. It’s all written in Italian, but if you love food pics, have a look at Gaia’s Instagram feed!

So I was supposed to share this recipe a while ago, but I’m only writing it now – hope you’ll like it as much as my better half does. I prepare this version of the traditional French onion soup from time to time and he loves it. Whenever I prepare this soup, I use a different cheese on top – we like to go to the farmer’s market and check out new cheese or buy what we feel on that day, so the recipe ends up being slightly different every time!

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My own soupe à l’oignon

Ingredients
(x 2)

2 medium-sized white onions
cashew or hazelnut drink
1/3 tsp cumin seeds
1/3 tsp fennel seeds
a pinch of black pepper
a pinch of grated nutmeg
extra virgin olive oil

* cheese to use on top: I usually put 2 slices to cover all the cocotte. I add 2 slices as soon as the cocotte is ready for the oven, and 2 extra slices when it’s almost ready. During the years, I have used different kinds of cheese for this recipe, and I invite you to do the same – get to know better your taste buds! Last time, I have decided to go for brie made with raw milk and it turned out great.

* bread, obviously, to dip into the warm soup! A slice of sourdough bread makes the perfect pair with this recipe.

Preparation

Peel the onions and cut them into thin slices. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a pot over a medium heat, then add the chopped onions and the spices (cumin, fennel, and black pepper freshly crushed in a mortar + grated nutmeg). Stir until the onions turn golden. Pour the warm nut drink all over the vegetables (use approx. 150 ml) and leave to cook for approx. 10-15 minutes. What you aim for is a creamy result – there should be some liquid left but not too much (add a little bit more of liquid if needed).

Place the soup into the heatproof cocottes or baking dish, add a few slices of cheese to cover the top of your soup and place in the oven at 180°C for 10-15 minutes or until it starts to turn golden. Remove the soup from the oven, add some more cheese on top and put it back to roast for a couple of minutes. In the meantime, toast some bread and serve it with the soup once it’s ready.

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