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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Kitchari

(recipe in Italian HERE 🇮🇹 – fa parte della mia collaborazione sull’alimentazione consapevole con Gaia di The Green Pantry)

Who knows Kitchari? Or it’s even better to ask… who else loves it? Because this is what happens when you try it for the first time, you suddenly fall in love with this nourishing and simple preparation. Kitchari is a classic Ayurvedic recipe to support your body’s natural balance. It’s a great option when you need to reconnect with your body and you’re looking for an easy (and healthy) way to rebalance – for example, in between seasons, after a stressful time, or in a period with several occasions for overindulging with food.

You can check out my version for this deliciously simple soup below. This is actually only one of the ways in which I prepare Kitchari – not only I try to change the spices and vegetables, especially according to my own needs or to the seasons, but I also sometimes decide to blend part of the mung beans (usually half of them, to get an extra creamy texture). Every time I have some Kitchari left from the day before (a rare occasion!), I try to change it a little by adding extra fresh veggies.

Hope you’ll like it! Chiara x

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KITCHARI

Ingredients:
(x 2)
2 parts of yellow mung dal beans (approx. 100 g)
1 part of brown basmati rice (approx. 50 g)
4 medium-sized carrots
1 shallot
2 bay leaves
1 cardamom pod (open it)
½ tsp cumin seeds
1/3 tsp fenugreek seeds
½ tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1/3 tsp cinnamon powder
5-6 coriander seeds
a pinch of black pepper
ghee or extra virgin olive oil
fresh coriander or parsley to use as a topping
optional: chopped spinach, kale, or other dark leafy greens

Preparation:
Heat 1 tsp of ghee or ½ tbsp of olive oil in a pot over a medium heat. Add the chopped shallot and stir until it turns golden. Add the yellow mung beans (previously rinsed with water) and mix well. Add enough water to keep everything covered. Add also the bay leaves and crushed fennel seeds (half of the total amount that you are using for this recipe). While they are cooking, keep adding water in small amounts to be sure that there won’t be water left when they will be ready. After approx. 20 minutes, add the finely chopped carrots, rice, and turmeric. Mix well. Cook for approx. 20 minutes or until everything is cooked and start to become quite creamy. If you are also using
some finely chopped dark leafy vegetables, add them almost at the end (cook for approx. 5 minutes).

To prepare the mix of spices: heat in a pan ½ tbsp of olive oil or 1 tsp of ghee and add the spices (at this stage, you have already used turmeric, bay leaves, and half of the fennel seeds – so just use what is left on the list). Stir well until fragrant. You can crush them in a mortar before or after toasting them. Add your mix of spices into the Kitchari and mix well – remove the bay leaves.

When the Kitchari is ready, turn off the heat – leave to rest in the covered pot for 5 minutes before serving. You can serve it by itself with just a little bit of olive oil on top or you can decide to use some fresh parsley and/or a dollop of yogurt as a topping.


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Bulgur Salad with Roasted Asparagus

You have probably already heard about “meat free Monday”: is an international campaign that was launched some years ago to encourage people to eat at least on Monday meals without meat, considering both the effect on health and on the planet.

Here there is a plant-based recipe perfect for this period of the year. Give it a go! If you check my pages on social media, you will find a lot of inspiration for cooking tasty and healthy meals: find us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Share with friends and help to spread the word of #meatlessMonday!

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Bulgur Salad with Roasted Asparagus

(serves 4)
250 g bulgur
About 20 fresh asparagus
1 handful of chickpeas (cooked)
About 80 g of green olives (in brine; washed before use)
1 bunch of spring onions
1 lime (juice)
2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried coriander
½ tsp grounded cayenne pepper
1 tsp black sesame seeds
A pinch of black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil

Prepare the asparagus: heat a small amount of olive oil in a pan, then add the whole asparagus and cook for few minutes over a medium heat. An alternative: it’s possible to place the asparagus on a baking tray and cook for a few minutes in a pre-heated oven at 180°C.

Leave the bulgur to rest for 20 minutes in a medium-sized bowl with enough water to cover it, then wash it. Heat some olive oil (less than a tsp) in a pan over a medium heat. Add the chopped spring onions and stir-fry for few minutes until fragrant. Add the bulgur and toast it for a couple of minutes, then sprinkle with half lime juice. Start adding a little bit of water to cook the bulgur for 5/10 more minutes, then wait until it’s cold (you can put the bulgur in a bowl, add some olive oil, and separate everything well with a fork, to prevent the formation of lumps while it’s cooling down).

At this stage, mix everything together: bulgur with spring onions, half lime juice, asparagus, chickpeas, olives (half chopped and half whole), herbs, spices, and some extra virgin olive oil. Serve by itself or with a green salad.



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7 basic tips for a healthy skin

Your skin is the body’s largest organ and the fastest-growing one. Unless your skin is damaged or cut, your skin protects your whole body.

The skin has the ability to absorb active compounds that you use with lotions, but at the same time can use compounds that you introduce with the diet.

In this blog post, I will guide you through basic topics and pieces of advice, simple and easily adaptable to everybody’s life.

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What you eat influences not just how you feel “internally”, but it has also an effect on your skin, your energy levels, your sleep pattern, etc. (think for example at how your skin looks after a few days of not drinking enough water). A healthy lifestyle can also be helpful if you have a skin condition like acne, rosacea, or psoriasis: obviously, in this situation, you should be extra careful with your make-up, lotions, and beauty routine in general. Also, sometimes there are specific treatments to follow given by a dermatologist, considering that the reason behind these conditions can be different.

Remember that what worked for someone can be useless for you, or your skin can even react badly. That’s why is always better to do little patch tests on an arm when buying a new cream or make-up. Also “the more, the better” is not always true: putting too many products on your skin won’t make you look great faster – just find a few that work well for you and have a good list of ingredients, and use them on a daily basis. It’s like a healthy diet, you need to be consistent and slowly you will see results, but the body needs time to adapt!

7 basic tips for a healthy skin

1. Drink plenty of water: seems like the most useless advice, but it’s actually something good to remind. We are reading everywhere different pieces of advice related to health: drink this, drink that, drink those daily, a healthy shot of this, 10 glasses of that. Go back to the basics: are you drinking enough water? Your skin can tell you, also your lips, your digestive system, your ability to concentrate, your tiredness, and much more. Sometimes your body is telling you in many ways that you need more water – you should just pay more attention to the signs! There isn’t a fixed amount of water that is good for everyone, the classic rule of 8 glasses may not work for you. Consider how is your day, diet, exercise routine, etc. You will notice a big difference by start drinking more water: one of the first positive effects will be on your face’s skin!

2. Green tea: you can use it both as a beverage and as a skin treatment. It’s rich in antioxidants, that will help you fighting free-radicals and keeping a younger skin. Much research has been done about green tea, and the powerful effect of its catechins and polyphenols both for skin cells and protection from environmental damages has been proved. Using it topically, it will also help with inflammation and will give a good cleanse: you can make a concentrated cup of green tea, cool it down, and mix it with some aloe vera, then use as a cleanser with a cotton pad (after removing the makeup).

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3. Good fats: this is an important part of a balanced diet. Your body needs good fats: they are important for things like cells, metabolic processes, and vitamin absorption, just to name a few. Of course, you need them in the right amounts. Use extra virgin olive oil (that is also rich in vitamin E, great for skin), or nuts (for example almonds, that contain also minerals, vitamin A and E), or avocado (source of vitamin E, C, antioxidants, and vitamins from the B group), or seeds (source of omega-3, vitamins, and minerals).

4. Minerals: reduce sodium, go for fruit and vegetables rich in potassium (to keep a healthy sodium-potassium balance). Include foods rich in magnesium (that will also help with stress), and iron (lack of this mineral can give you a dry, itchy, aged skin). Overall, a good amount of minerals will help in keeping a radiant and hydrated skin. Green leafy vegetables, beetroots, spirulina, dried apricots, nuts, whole grains, cocoa powder, etc. are good vegetable sources of iron. Magnesium can be found in oats, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, legumes, cocoa powder, etc. Examples of food rich in potassium are bananas, sweet potatoes, peas, beans, apricots, etc.

5. De-stress: high levels of stress can mess up with your whole body, skin included. Find some relaxation techniques that work well for you, whether it’s yoga, meditation, cooking, reading, exercising, massage, or walking… find the most effective one (or ones) and include it in your daily routine. Stress is often related to emotional eating, digestive issues, lack of absorption of nutrients, high blood pressure, skin problems, etc. Also, staying active boosts your happiness-related hormones, helps to keep your digestive system working well, helps the body’s natural detox by sweating, etc.

6. Healthy gut: the more we know about our gut, the more we understand that there is a deep relationship between its health and our well-being. Your skin health is related to your internal balance because it’s related to diet, absorption of nutrients, hydration, hormones. Embrace a healthy lifestyle rich in fibre, fresh fruit, and vegetables, together with a variety of foods to get all the nutrients that you need daily. Include also healthy sources of probiotics, fermented foods, spices (like turmeric), and herbs.

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7. Exfoliate and massage: when doing a simple scrub, the important thing is using just a few basic ingredients that you know are good for your skin and don’t do this deep cleanse too often. You can easily prepare your own face scrub: taking inspiration from Ayurveda, you can use gram flour, honey, and rosewater. Or the simpler and cheaper option is using sugar as base. You can add spices like turmeric, but use small quantities and try it first on a small hidden piece of arm’s skin (it may be too much for a pale skin). By exfoliating, you will help your skin giving a breath of fresh air from dying cells, and you will also do a nice massage to stimulate the micro-circulation. To massage, or for a face mask (maybe together with honey), you can use coconut oil or ghee (they are both  rich in nutrients, that will help your skin in re-build a good external protective layer and will deeply nourish your skin): there are several kinds of oil/butter that you can use on your body or face skin, but among many options, these two are good alternatives both for nutrients (ghee is a staple in Ayurvedic treatments) and for adaptability to sensitive skin.

Fancy reading more about this topic? Below there are a few links to scientific publications related to skin health and some of the foods that are mentioned in the post.



 

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