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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Greens on Tofu

Sometimes things are just totally unplanned! This is what happened for the recipe that you’ll find below. A combination of grocery shopping day, plenty of inspiring fresh ingredients in the kitchen, not too much time to cook, and a warmer weather that calls for green and fresh meals! What came out is something that I suddenly called “not your average toast”, because the idea is the same behind a toast: a thick base with a distinctive flavour (marinated tofu, in this recipe), covered with delicious toppings.

Hope you will like it! Chiara x

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Greens on Tofu

Ingredients
(serves 2)

100 g plain tofu
a pinch of garam masala
1 1/2 tbsp tamari
2 medium-sized courgettes
2 handful of rocket
some microgreens (here I have used the ones made from coriander)
1/3 tsp black sesame seeds
extra virgin olive oil

Preparation

Make 4 thick slices out of the block of tofu and toss them with a little bit of olive oil, the tamari sauce and a pinch of garam masala – be sure that the marinade is well distributed around all your tofu, then place it in the fridge for 30 minutes (or you can cook it straight away if you’d have time). Roast the tofu in a pre-heated oven at 180°C until it starts to turn golden and crispy on the outside (approx. 15-20 minutes).

Cut the courgettes into slices (not too thin – so you’ll ensure that they will keep well a crunchy texture) and cook for only a couple of minutes in a warm pan with a little bit of olive oil.

Place the tofu on a plate* (I have used 2 slices for each person) – cover it with the courgettes first, then add the rocket and the microgreens. Sprinkle some black sesame seeds on top before serving.

* you are mixing cooked and raw ingredients, so it’s better to leave the tofu and courgettes to cool down a little before serving.

 



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5 Simple Ways to Reduce Waste in Your Kitchen

Today is Earth Day, so I thought that would be nice to talk about some ways in which you can easily reduce waste in your kitchen. I truly see being creative while cooking, re-connecting with the nature around me and having an attention to reducing waste as things included in a healthy lifestyle.

In this way, HEALTHY LIFESTYLE means to me more than just choosing to pair some veggies with my bowl of pasta to add more nutrients to my meal. From my point of view, it includes having a completely different perspective of

myself
food
health
well-being
people around me
nature

It’s always a good idea asking yourself from time to time “is my lifestyle exactly how I’d like it to be?“, “what can I change/improve?“, “great, I’m eating in a healthier way, but I’d like to do something more. Let’s step back and check my lifestyle from a different point of view!“, etc…

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Let’s talk about 5 ways to start having a more Earth-friendly lifestyle.

1) GET CREATIVE, SAVE MONEY, REDUCE WASTE

You can put this idea into practice in several ways, for example:

  • leftovers can be a chance to have some food ready for your next meal or a way in which you can get more creative in the kitchen
  • since they can take up some time to prepare, you can decide to cook cereals or legumes in a large amount (plain) and keep them in the fridge for a few days: in this way, you will be sure to have them ready whenever you need to put together a quick meal, simply add fresh fruit or vegetables and healthy fats
  • start cooking more from scratch: no need to suddenly go from only putting together a toast to start making bread, yogurt, tomato sauce, and fresh pasta for all your family everyday! Start doing it step by step, following your own schedule, cooking skills, and needs – there’s always room for improvements!
  • start discovering food markets, local producers, organic products and cook more seasonal foods. It’s a good way to reduce waste (usually in food markets most of the products have less or zero packaging), eat more according to the seasons, and get involved in all the social part that’s around food markets
  • do you have some empty glass jars? Recycle them properly or give them a new life!
  • when possible, try to buy more products in bulk or without packaging

2) BRING YOUR OWN REUSABLE BAGS

Whenever you plan to go for your grocery shopping, remind yourself to bring the bags with you – it’s also handy to always have one of them with you: keep it in the car, in your purse or in the pocket of your coat (some of those foldable bags can become so tiny!).

3) RECYCLE

Get organised with the different bins and be sure that everybody in the house knows how to use them. Wondering if you can or can’t recycle something? Check with your local recycling station or have a look online for specific guides made for your city/area.

4) CUT DOWN ON ALL THE SINGLE-USE STUFF

I’m talking about paper towel, cling film, parchment paper, aluminium foil, plastic bags, etc… First, take a step back and check how much of this kind of stuff are you using and start choosing reusable alternatives more often. Here there are some examples:

  • get a few beeswax wraps to cover bowls, plates, or to fold around an open watermelon (check out, for example, Bee’s Wrap and Abeego)
  • get a reusable baking mat
  • be sure to have always a tea towel and a sponge on hand so it will be easier to swap the paper towel for them for example when you spill something
  • get cotton produce bags and air-tight containers to store everything properly
  • what do you use to pack your lunch for the office? What can you change/improve?

5) GIVE “UGLY” FRUIT AND VEGGIES A CHANCE!

It’s pretty common to choose the apple that looks perfect over one that has some imperfections – we have all done that! But by choosing every time those perfect looking fruit and veggies, you keep sending a message to the shop about customers’ preferences so they will adapt the offer. The result? More waste! So, give those not-so-perfect apples a chance and you’ll find out that they are tasty and nutritious exactly like they are supposed to be!

Now it’s your turn! Have a look at your cooking/buying habits and check what you can start improving right now. And remember… every day is Earth Day!

Chiara x

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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