Energy Balls with Pumpkin, Nuts, and Chocolate

These energy balls with a mixture of pumpkin, nuts, oats, chocolate and spices are honestly the best energy balls that I have ever had. They are like little bites of a deliciously decadent chocolate cake.

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Pumpkin Risotto with Crispy Mushrooms

Let’s celebrate the arrival of a new season with this risotto. The smooth and rich mix of pumpkin and brown rice, it’s paired with a few selected spices and crispy mushrooms.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 200 g short grain brown rice
  • 400 g pumpkin (peeled)
  • 100 g mushrooms (brown button)
  • 2 shallots
  • approx. 2 ½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp cumin
  • 1/3 tsp grounded black pepper
  • ½ tsp sesame seeds
  • 1/3 tsp smoked paprika
  • a pinch of grated nutmeg
  • a pinch of salt

Heat a little bit of olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the finely chopped shallots and stir until they turn golden. Add the rice and mix well for approx. 30 seconds to toast the rice. Add slowly enough warm water to keep everything covered. Prepare 200 g of finely chopped pumpkin and add it to the pot. Mix well and cover with warm water, cook over medium heat for 30-40 minutes (depending on the rice that you’re using). Add water in small portions to cook the rice, there should not be water left when the risotto is ready.

You will also need to:

  1. Roast the other 200 g of pumpkin in a pre-heated oven at 180°C for 15-20 minutes (until it’s soft). Place it on a baking tray with a little bit of olive oil, a pinch of smoked paprika, nutmeg, grounded cumin, and black pepper.
  2. Prepare the crispy mushrooms: toss the slices with a little bit of olive oil, a pinch of smoked paprika, nutmeg, grounded cumin, and black pepper. Place in a pre-heated pan, and cook over medium heat until they turn crispy (approx. 10 minutes) – keep an eye on them since they tend to burn easily.

When the rice is almost ready, remove the pot from the heat. Blend 2 tbsp of cooked rice with the roasted pumpkin and 4-5 tbsp of water: you don’t wont to get the mix fully blended – look for a smooth paste with some small chunks of pumpkin (if your blender is not suitable for warm food, wait for them to cool down before blending).

Mix the paste with the cooked rice in the pot over medium heat for approx. 1 minute. Serve with the mushrooms on top, a little bit of olive oil, and the mix of grounded cumin, black pepper, nutmeg, and sesame seeds.

If you prepare this risotto in advance and want to re-heat it, just add a little bit of plant-based drink (almond, hazelnut, oat: they will all work well).

Lentil and Carrots Dahl

Another lovely idea for #meatlessmonday: a lentil soup inspired by the traditional Indian cuisine, nourishing and rich in flavour!

Chiara x

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Lentil and Carrots Dahl

(serves 4)

200 g red split lentils
3 medium-sized carrots
1 large shallot (or 2 small)
4-5 sundried tomatoes
1 tsp freshly grated ginger (or 1/3 tsp ginger powder)
1 tsp turmeric powder
a pinch of cayenne pepper
½ tsp tahini per person
extra virgin olive oil or ghee

option 1: ½ tsp garam masala
option 2: ½ tsp cumin and coriander seeds, ½ tsp fennel seeds, ¼ tsp cinnamon powder, 1-2 small cloves.

Heat a little bit of olive oil in a pot over a medium heat. Add the chopped shallot and stir until turns golden. Add the lentils (previously rinsed with water using a colander) and mix well. Add the chopped sundried tomatoes and enough water to keep the lentils covered. Add also the bay leaves and crushed fennel seeds (half of the total amount that you are using for this recipe). While the lentils are cooking, keep adding water in small amounts to be sure that there won’t be water left when they will be ready, but just a nice creamy soup.

After approx. 10 minutes, add the finely chopped carrots, with turmeric, cayenne pepper, and ginger. Mix well. If you are using the garam masala mix add that too. Cook the lentils for approx. 25 minutes or until they start to become quite creamy.

If you are using the mix of spices: heat in a pan ½ tbsp of olive oil and add the cumin, coriander, fennel seeds, cinnamon, and cloves. Stir well until fragrant. You can crush them in a mortar before or after toasting them. Add your mix of spices into the dahl and mix well – remove the bay leaves.

When the dahl is ready, turn off the heat – add ½ tsp of tahini per person and mix well. Leave to rest in the covered pot for 5-10 minutes before serving. You can serve it as 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 topping. You can also decide to add a few slices of fresh green chilli on top for some extra spiciness.



If you’d like to get my help in setting up solid foundations for your healthier lifestyle, here there is a thing that you can do: book your FREE DIET EVALUATION CALLbook now black

Cecina or Farinata

This is a typical Italian simple recipe (originally from Tuscany and Liguria, but you can find it in other parts of Italy as well). Just a few basic ingredients, paired together to give you this tasty result – great eaten straight from the oven, or reheated, or even cold. It’s a versatile food – good as a snack, or paired with a salad/soup for lunch, or as part of a savory breakfast… why not?

There was this little vegetarian and vegan cafè in between my house and the college in Bologna, and sometimes I was stopping by to grab something for lunch: almost every day they had freshly made super thin cecina and it was so good! Light and nourishing, perfect for a busy afternoon spent studying or working in the lab.

So, here there is my recipe for cecina. This is one of the recipes that I often share with my clients, it’s perfect when you are busy, but at the same time, you want to stay healthy and get your nutrients.

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Cecina (or Farinata)

Ingredients:

  • 200 g chickpea flour
  • 500 ml water
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • black pepper
  • other spices (optional)

In a mixing bowl, add the water and spices, then slowly add the flour using a whisk to mix everything really well (to prevent lumps of flour). Leave to rest for at least 30 min, but even a couple of hours or overnight if possible (if you leave it to rest overnight you may (depending on the temperature of the room) have to add a little bit of water before baking since chickpea flour absorb water easily). Mix well again before baking and add 1 tbsp of olive oil. Place on a baking tray – the result should be thin, between 1-1.5 cm and 2-3 cm. You can use some baking paper or those reusable non-stick trays since tends to stick a lot to the pan – or you can add some oil on the bottom of a non-stick baking tray. Bake in a preheated oven at 180°C until there is a nice golden crust (a few minutes before taking it out from the oven, add on top some olive oil and spread it all over the surface, then put it back in the oven – that’s optional, but adds a nice extra flavor). Allow to cool well before removing from the pan (if you are using baking paper, remove the paper+food and place on a cooling rack). It will keep well in the fridge for 2-3 days.

You can prepare the plain version first, then try adding different spices to the mixture or spinach or carrots or courgettes, for example. If you add vegetables inside the batter, add them just before baking.

Alternatively, you can decide to top your cecina with some sauteed spinach or chard or kale or cavolo nero (any other similar dark green leafy vegetables will work well). Prepare your sautéed greens in a pan with a little bit of olive oil, chilli flakes or cayenne pepper, and black pepper – it will take a few minutes for them to be ready (chop them finely before or after cooking). You can also add some crumbled goat cheese or feta or chopped cashews for a dairy-free option.

Healthy Summer Skin

Recently, I was talking about vitamins, the sun, and melanin on my social media pages. So, I have decided to write this Summer-themed blog post. It’s an interesting topic, ’cause sometimes you actually tend to forget that food is not just a fuel to keep you running all day long. You can make the right choices and get the most out of your meals, in terms of keeping your body and mind healthy, or in terms of helping you with mood swings, skin health, energy levels, concentration, digestion, etc. Let’s talk about a few tips to help your skin and shine from the inside out!

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But…what do you eat in a day?

If you had the chance to check my social media pages, you know already a little bit about myself and what I usually eat. What you see there is real food from my kitchen and I hope that sharing those pretty pictures will inspire many of you in taking the first step toward a healthier lifestyle. We all need a little bit of extra motivation from time to time, right?

Well, I have decided to put together this blog post because quite often I get questions from my clients about my diet or what I eat – it’s difficult to talk about a “typical day” because I like to change and I get a lot of inspiration from my weekly grocery shopping. Sometimes, I have to adapt my meals to the daily schedule or I have to put together something nice when there are just a few things left in the pantry – that’s life! But no matter what, there is always a “healthy but tasty” leitmotiv within my days.

Unfortunately, there are still a lot of misconceptions around a healthy lifestyle.. like thinking that healthy food is tasteless, that being healthy means just eating boring salads, that paying attention to your health and well-being means having a lot of restrictions and limitations. Nope, you can choose a healthy lifestyle and eat tasty, delicious food that looks good and also makes you feel great.

Morning:

I usually start my day with a few glasses of water, followed by a cup of green tea or herbal tea – in this case, the day started with 2 glasses of water and a cup of fresh ginger tea. Then, yoga practice and breakfast with a porridge made with oats, water, cacao powder, cinnamon, pumpkin seeds, tahini, and a kiwi.

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Mid-morning snack:

Changing your snacking habits is one of those really useful steps to stay healthy every day. We often tend to overeat with snacks thinking that is fine because the main meal was just a salad – especially when we are stressed or busy, it’s easy to keep snacking and don’t realize what you’re actually putting in your mouth (and how much), because you don’t see it all together on a plate. I know that because I have done it myself for years! But let’s go back to my day: the snack was a pretty pink smoothie with a peach, strawberries, almonds, milled flaxseeds, and water.

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Lunch:

A nice salad with marinated mushrooms, radishes, and green beans. I had approx. a double portion of the salad that you see in the picture. This was paired with a spicy frittata and a piece of what in Italy would be called “schiacciata” – it’s basically a flatbread with some olive oil and herbs on top. That day I was patiently waiting for some bread dough to rise, so I just took a small piece of that (after approx. 5/6 hours of rising) and used it for the flatbread. It was made just with whole grain spelt flour.

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Mid-afternoon snack:

It was a busy day, so I had a first snack with coffee and a few almonds – then, another snack after a long evening walk (about 9 km): a couple of energy balls that I have made a few days before with mixed seeds, rice flakes, dates, and lemon juice.

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Dinner:

A quick one with cucumber, tomatoes, a little bit of feta, fresh basil, olive oil and black pepper. Oh, and a tiny piece of the same flatbread that I had for lunch. I also had a herbal tea during the evening before bedtime.

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