Saturday, 30 October 2010

White Bean Puree, or my Accidental Vegan, and Almost Raw, Lunch

Inspiration can strike any time or any place it seems- even in the Staff Dining Rooms of the world. Not for the food that exists there obviously, it really is uninspired and pedestrian, and sometimes downright inedible. But occasionally you may find an old Women's Weekly lying about, that has an attractive sounding recipe. Such as this one from November 2009. Truth be told, I'm sure that this edition would also be lurking about somewhere in the house too, but I found it in the Staff Dining Room. And today it became my Accidentally Vegan Lunch. Vegan isn't quite my thing. It's fine for those who want it of course, and fine for the occasional lunchtime dalliance. But I'm not vegan, and I'm not even vegetarian.

How I made it look for the photo

Butter beans are low GI (I used ready canned ones, which have a GI of 36, if I'd been more prepared and cooked them at home, then the GI is even lower!)

White Bean Puree

300gm can butter beans, rinsed and drained

40gm ground almonds
1 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 medium clove garlic, crushed
45 mL extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra, to serve
sea salt, ground white pepper
ras el hanout

1. Process beans, almonds, lemon juice and garlic in a food processor until smooth

2. With motor running gradually add the olive oil until thick and creamy. Season

3. Transfer mixture to a saucepan. Stir over low heat until warm. Transfer to a serving dish, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with ras el hanout.

How it looked when I actually ate it. 

Of course I modified the recipe.
The original recipe called for a 400gm tin of cannellini beans, and I only had a 300gm tin of butter beans. So I used those, and did a 3/4 recipe.

I was distracted, and so added most of the oil, before realising I was supposed to blend the other stuff first (Note to self- read the recipe all the way through- hey I just noticed the warm it up in a saucepan bit- I didn't do that either, hmmmm I really need to make this again, and have a go at making the recipe, I will try warming the leftovers tomorrow), not that I think it mattered a whole lot. My texture was more rustic than thick and creamy. Still tasted fine.

The ras el hanout is my own addition. I have a magnificent tin of it that I got from Maha in Melbourne on my last visit. Just the smell of it is intoxicating. Which you need, just in case you accidentally make yourself a Vegan Lunch. You could of course use a myriad of other spices- sumac, za'atar for instance.

I hate raw carrot (nearly as much as celery), so I peeled them lightly to make them (marginally) more palatable. This was a bit too much of "eat what's good for you", and I still have at least half a bunch of baby carrots for tomorrow. Oh goody. I think I might have to blanch them too.

Ok, so the beans are cooked, and I blanched the asparagus.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Cucumber Rounds with Smoked Salmon

It's fun to take inspiration and ideas from lots of different sources for foods that taste great and still fit within my new low GI world. Because if it doesn't taste great, then really, well, I don't want to eat it anyway.

This quick and easy hors d'oeuvre came about as a suggestion in Curves Fitness and Weight Management Plan book, that my lovely friend Veronica gave to me.

The photograph isn't all that good, something about my skills as a photographer's wife I fear. Perhaps I'll remake them sometime soon and get a better shot. 

Easy as. It's simply smoked salmon and cream cheese on rounds of cucumber used instead of crackers. I had some sheeps yoghurt cheese to use up the night I made these so I used that instead of cream cheese. Even Mr World ate them, although there was some grumbling about the non-use of crackers.

Creamy Vegetable and Barley Soup

I've been wanting to make this soup for a few years now. A combination of a snowy weekend (in Spring!) and my low GI leanings finally spurred me on. I'd wondered about it before- lots of vegies, and using skim milk powder for the Creamy part is unusual and something I hadn't used before. My version is  based on a recipe from diabetes 2 by Jody Vassallo, part of the Health for Life series.

For some reason I seem to forget to take photos of meals that I mainly make for lunch. So this is the very last time I ate it, when I added some left over creamed corn to it to pad it out. Not exactly representative of the soup, but you get the idea.

Barley has one of the lowest GI values of any carbohydrate food (25), and it actually lowers the GI of any meal. It's not a food that I have eaten all that frequently, but I can sense that it may be in my future. I have used it in soups a few times, but not regularly, and have never tried it as a side dish. There is a recipe for Pesto Barley in the same book that might be tasty.

Creamy Vegetable and Barley Soup

1 cup (195g/6 1/2 oz) pearl barley
2 tsp canola oil
4 eschallots
2 large carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 medium parsnip, chopped
2 medium zucchini (courgette), thickly sliced
300 g (10oz) pumpkin, chopped
Sea salt, freshly ground pepper
2 large sprigs thyme
6 cups (1.5L/48 fl oz) hot reduced salt vegetable stock
1 cup (150g/5 oz) fresh or frozen peas
1 cup (200g/6 1/2 oz) fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 cup (100g/ 3 1/3 oz) skim milk powder
2 tblsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 Put the barley into a large pan, cover with water and cook over medium heat for 40 minutes or until the barley is soft. Add extra water during cooking if the barley is drying out. Drain well.

2 Heat the canola oil in a large pan, add the eschallots, carrot and celery. Cover and sweat over low heat for 10 minutes until soft.

3 Add the parsnip, pumpkin, thyme and stock and bring to the boil. Season to taste. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add zucchini. Cook for a further 15 minutes until vegetables are soft.

4 Add the peas, corn, and barley and simmer for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked. Add skim milk powder and parsley.

Serves 6

per serve fat 4.5 g, protein 17.5 g, carbohydrate 48.5g, fibre 10.5g, cholesterol 5.5mg, energy 1280 kJ (305 cal), gi 38 low

I made quite a few modifications to the recipe, with ingredients and technique.
The recipe called for leek but as there were no leeks available when I made this,  I substituted 4 eschallots. For some reason onion terminology is very confusing in different countries, this is what an Australian means by eschallot or french shallot.

Even though the zucchini were thickly sliced, I didn't want to cook them for half an hour so I added them 15 minutes in.
I'm always suspicious of recipes with no seasoning, and don't think they taste all that good, so I added salt, pepper and a couple of large sprigs of thyme (just because I'd bought some for something else so had it on hand)
The original recipe added the peas, corn and milk powder at the same time. The milk powder bubbled up and looked lumpy. I would add it at the end, after the peas and corn had cooked.
It was quite nice, I'd be happy to make it again.
Cross-posted to soupsoupglorioussoup

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Blueberry Salsa

Is there anything better than smoked chicken salads as the weather starts to warm? Perhaps it can only be bettered by adding a delicious blueberry salsa. I've just rediscovered this recipe. I used to make it years ago, in those halcyon days before children I suspect. The blueberries in the past few weeks have been sensational, wonderfully sweet, and I began reminiscing.

This recipe is from one of Donna Hay's earliest books- At My Table, which has been out of print for some time I believe. I remember this book was the first time I discovered Donna Hay. I bought it when I was seconded to Albury in my intern year in 1998, oh so long ago. It has stacks of great recipes, lots of which I used to make. And lots of the recipes fit perfectly into the low GI lifestyle.

It's quick, ever so simple and tastes fab. And it gives you an excuse to have some extra mango lying about the house- never a bad thing, even if you've done too good a job at encouraging your child to like mango, and he becomes stiff competition for leftover mango.

Blueberry Salsa

250gm (8oz) blueberries
1/2 mango, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 tblsp (20mL) soft brown sugar
3 tblsp (60mL) raspberry vinegar

Place the blueberries, mango, onion, sugar and vinegar in a bowl and mix to combine.

The smoked chicken from Woolies is wonderful. The smoked chicken from the Masterchef supermarket sucks.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Balsamic Tomato Salsa

This was Absolutely Fantastic. I'll be making this again and again. My favourite kind of food to cook at home, wether I'm on a low GI diet or not. Ridiculously easy to make, and tastes glorious. I'm already thinking of different ways to use it. It would be great with salmon or lamb. You could adapt it to make a delicious pasta sauce, use it as a sandwich/wrap filling. It would have been nice with some shaved parmesan added on top.

The recipe was from the Sunday Telegraph Body + Soul last week (17/10/10), and reprinted from the October issue of Good Taste. The recipe as presented was for Chicken with Silverbeet and Balsamic Tomato Salsa, which would have been all low GI. Making it for a 9 year old as well as myself I didn't risk the silverbeet and chickpea combo (even though he likes chickpeas), instead using some pasta and vegies.

Balsamic Tomato Salsa

200gm punnet grape tomatoes, halved
1tbsp balsamic vinegar
Sea salt, ground pepper
2 tblsp pine nuts
1 tblsp snipped fresh chives

Heat oven to 190C. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Place tomato, cut side up, on tray. Drizzle over vinegar. Season to taste. Bake for 5 minutes. Add pine nuts and bake for 4-5 minutes or until tomato collapses and pine nuts are toasted. Transfer tomato, pine nuts and pan juices to a bowl. Add chives and toss to combine.

Because I was making this for a child to eat, I only used about 2/3 of the balsamic vinegar (he didn't like it anyway, but did eat some). The child of course had a higher ratio of pasta on his plate- bribery is everything. He decided that he almost liked the pine nuts so that's a win.
It took much longer than 9-10 minutes in my oven (everything always does, I suspect it's the oven)
We had mashed kumara, with the cauliflower and asparagus.
I was hoping to use grape kumatoes (or tomaccoes as Mr Adventures refers to them) but of course there was none at the shops yesterday.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Low GI explained

I came across a fabulous page summarising the benefits of a low GI diet today. Worth a post in its own right.

And to add a pretty picture, here is the low GI pizza I made last week. I've been experimenting with low GI pizzas recently. I'm planning a pizza post in the next few weeks to display my efforts.

Rhubarb and Blueberry

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but I think serendipity makes a pretty good step-mother. As I was chopping up another bunch of rhubarb to bake, I was putting away the rest of the shopping and as I picked up the punnet of blueberries, and had the What If thought. It wasn't a combination that I'd thought of before, or seen anywhere. But a quick google and I was reassured- people make rhubarb and blueberry jam and rhubarb and blueberry crumbles so it must be a thing worth pursuing, or at least trying.

So I chucked half a punnet of blueberries into my rhubarb, and it was fabulous. Blueberries aren't my favourite berry, but they are frightfully good for you. The book Low GI Eating Made Easy says that apart from strawberries (GI 40), most berries have so little carbohydrate it's difficult to test their GI. On GI news they rave over blueberries as a superfood and wild blueberries in particular, which they give a GI of 53. Which is a tad confusing it must be said.

My rhubarb blueberry combo was fantastic on some nice thick strawberry vanilla yoghurt. Once again baked with a bit of maple syrup and a sprinkling of maple sugar, which really enhances the maple flavour.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Crunchy Granola Suite

A recipe so good it has it's own theme music. I just can't think of granola without thinking Crunchy Granola Suite. Perhaps Neil Diamond's Crunchy Granola Suite and indeed his whole Hot August Night is so old and daggy that it's cool again? Perhaps Neil Diamond was never cool.

I'm more a cereal than toast for breakfast kind of gal. I've been happily eating store bought cereal for years. My current favourite is lovely, but only available now at one supermarket in town that I don't normally go to. A few days ago, Hannah disrupted this state of zen with her Spiced Fig, Pepita and Molassess Granola. Since then I've been plotting when to make it and thinking about how I would adapt it. Not that her recipe doesn't sound fab. It does. I just want to make it more low GI. Whilst she is young enough to chase the tall dark and handsome granolas of her dreams, I'm more after a midlle-aged quiet, low GI soul muesli. After all if you're going to go to the trouble of making your own muesli, you may as well tweak it and make it just like you want it.

Glorious Sunday Morning Low GI Maple Apple Muesli

  • 2 2/3 cups (240g) rolled oats (not instant)
  • 1 cup (120g) pepitas
  • 2 1/2 tblsp (50mL) Logicane Low GI sugar
  • 2 tsp (10mL) maple sugar
  • 3 tblsp (60mL) maple syrup
  • 1 tblsp (20mL) sesame oil
  • 1 tblsp (20mL) canola oil
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 2/3 cup (140g) dried apples, chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 150°C (300°F). Mix oats and pepitas in a bowl.
  2. In a separate, larger bowl, whisk together the sugar, molasses, sesame oil, spices, and almond extract. Tip the oats and pepitas into the wet ingredients and stir well to combine.
  3. Spread the mix onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes,  take out and stir  to avoid its edges burning.
  4. Add  the chopped apples and stir through, then put muesli back in the oven for another 8-10 minutes, until starting to look toasted. Remember, the muesli will crisp up as it cools.
  5. Eat multiple handfuls from the baking tray as the muesli cools.

I have some fabulous Canadian maple syrup (low GI 54!) in the fridge, and a packet of maple sugar that a lovely friend sent me from Canada. So I had to make use of those. I don't know the gi of the maple sugar, so only replaced some of the low Gi sugar with it. The GI of molasses is unknown but predicted to be about the same as sugar (which is only a moderate 60). Figs are medium GI, whilst dried apples are an astonishing low GI treat with a GI of 29.

I was chicken and didn't want to double the sesame oil from the original, so I used half sesame oil, half canola. It's the right balance for me. 
The whole house fills with a delicious spicy aroma with this in the oven
It is delicious- particularly at step 5.
I'm looking forward to gobbling this batch up so I can make another and use a special spice mix I've got burning a hole in my pantry. 

Friday, 8 October 2010

Broad beans 101- Smashed broad beans and baby peas

I don't know that I've actually eaten broad beans before this week. Not through any active decision. I'd never eaten them, didn't know what to do with them, and so I didn't search them out, but then they hardly sought me out either. And what if I have favism and don't know it yet? That would be particularly tragic, go on a low GI diet and die. But still, you have to take some risks in life.

 Somewhat surprisingly to me broad beans are a medium GI food (63), whereas almost every other bean seems to be very low GI.

There were three broad bean recipes in the Sydney Morning Herald this week. I made one of them today (Smashed broad beans and baby peas on brushcetta with ricotta and mint), and have another kilo of broad beans in the fridge waiting to make a second recipe. Luckily it turns out that I like broad beans, and they are really quite tasty. I fiddled with the recipe and used wholemeal pita chips, it was a really tasty weekend lunch, and felt frightfully good for me.  I topped it with my first ever batch of homemade cheese (that will be a post to come- it's quite delicious).

Broad beans are quite fun to pod, although like everything a kilo seems like a little too much fun for one day. It is however quite evocative of those rare times when I helped my mother shell peas as a child. The pods have a cool texture, all padded on the inside.

Podded, ready to cook

Just a few quick minutes in the pot and they're done

Then podding them for the second time is actually the most time consuming part of the whole process. Apparently you can eat them without this step, but this coarse grey covering does taste really quite unpleasant by itself, so it's worth it to spend the extra time and get rid of it.

And then you're left with beautiful green gems that - I forgot to photograph! But you can see them here, mixed with the baby peas (GI 48).

I did want to rotate that photo, but can't today for some reason.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Lemon and Broccolini Chicken Soup

I made this soup the week before I renewed my efforts to eat a low GI diet. Happily this soup is something I would eat anyway, but just happens to be low GI. I used the batch for my work lunches that week and felt very virtuous.

This is a Donna Hay recipe from the Sunday Telegraph Magazine 22/8/2010

Broccolini is perhaps an under-utilised vegetable. At least in our house. Not sure why, I guess I'm just not in the habit of buying it. Somehow I don't think of it. Even though it is nice. It's a relatively new vegetable, a cross between broccoli and kai-lan (Chinese broccoli), not simply young broccoli- despite the fact that my local supermarket had it labelled as baby broccoli. Although I note wiki  tells us that it's "generic name" is baby broccoli, whatever that means.

Green vegetables usually have such small amounts of carbohydrate that their GI can't be measured. Pasta generally has a low GI (30-60), portion size is important, and the pasta needs to be al dente.

Lemon and Broccolini Chicken Soup

1 1/2 litres chicken stock
2 x 200g chicken breast fillets, trimmed
2 tblsp olive oil
150g fennel, thinly sliced
1 brown onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tblsp finely grated lemon rind
150g risoni
2 bunches broccolini, trimmed and chopped
1/2 cup basil leaves

Place the stock in a large saucepan over high heat and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low. Add the chicken and cook for 15 minutes or until cooked through. Remove the chicken from the pan and shred the meat. Remove the stock from the heat and set aside. Heat the oil in a saucepan over high heat. Add the fennel, onion and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes or until the onion is softened.

Add the lemon rind and stock and bring to the boil. Add the pasta and cook for 8 minutes. Add the broccolini and cook for a further 3 minutes or until the pasta is al dente and the broccolini is tender.

Stir through the shredded chicken and basil to serve. Serves 4.

Nice and quick to make, tasty and nutritious.
There was not nearly enough liquid in my soup. I added more water and it still wasn't enough.
The overwhelming flavours were from the fennel and broccolini, and occasionally the basil.
The basil immediately went black and looked unappealing.
Originally posted on my soup blog

Monday, 4 October 2010

Baked Rhubarb

Rhubarb is one of those Love It Or Hate It foods. Thankfully I'm happily in the Love It camp. And it's low GI. Well rhubarb itself is actually so low in carbohydrate as to be no GI! Although I do love it, I too must add some sweeteners to make it totally delicious.

Rhubarb is traditionally flavoured with orange juice, but for some reason I really don't like cooked orange all that much (there are some exceptions), and I really don't like the orange/rhubarb combo. So for many years I've experimented with different flavourings and sweeteners for my rhubarb. I prefer to use some maple syrup (how can that actually be low GI, but so glad it is!) and in the past have used concentrated apple juice (I'm not sure of the GI here, and since my bottle was long expired, I decided to avoid it when I made this the other day). You can also throw in some grated ginger, or do a mixture of fruits such as apple or pear (I haven't tried that yet, but it should work, indeed I've just thought of it now and want to try it).

It's so easy you don't really need a recipe, it's more just a method. If your rhubarb stems are different thicknesses then cut the thinner ones in longer pieces, and the thicker stems in shorter pieces so that they all cook in about the same time.

Rhubarb can be cooked on the stove or in the microwave, but I much prefer to bake it. Rhubarb holds its shape and colour much better if it's baked rather than stewed on the stove top, and I prefer to see the wonderful pieces of rhubarb rather than a mush of red strings.

Baked Rhubarb

1 bunch rhubarb, leaves removed, stems chopped
Maple syrup to drizzle
2 tsp LoGiCane sugar
1 cinnamon stick (optional)

Bake in a moderate oven (180C/350F) about 15-20 minutes (or until you can smell a delicious aroma drifting out of the oven).

There are lots of ways to enjoy this. I like it on my morning cereal for breakfast- by itself or with other fruits if I have them, it goes nicely with berries or banana, and of course tastes fantastic with cinnamon sprinkled on,

or with yoghurt (plain, vanilla, strawberry) for dessert or a snack.

What is a Low GI diet anyway?

GI stands for Glycaemic (or Glycemic if you're American) Index. It is a measure of how quickly your blood sugar level rises after you eat certain foods. So foods that are low GI, lead to a slow, modest rise in your blood sugar level, whereas high GI foods lead to a rapid rise, followed by a rapid decline in your blood sugar level. The glycaemic index of a food is a calculated measure, we can't work it out ourselves. It's easy to lean what are low GI foods though, and what aren't.

Low GI < 55

Medium GI 56-69

High GI >70

Low GI diets are an essential component of the management of diabetes, but it's not only diabetics who can benefit from low GI eating- everyone can, because a low GI diet basically promotes a balanced, healthy diet, chock full of the many essential nutrients our bodies need to get through each and every day. A low GI diet means lots of fruit and vegetables, modest amounts of protein and low GI carbohydrates. Low GI diets make an intrinsic sense to me as opposed to the ketogenic high protein diets that are widely popular. Choosing to put yourself into a ketotic state doesn't seem to make any sense to me. And who wants to pick a diet that will make them constipated?

There are stacks of websites with detailed information about what a low GI diet is, and which foods are preferred, so I don't need to go into too much detail here. Much of the ground breaking work in this area was done at my old stomping ground Sydney Uni by Jennie Brand-Miller. The official Glycemic Index website (and I note now that they are using American spelling) has a ton of information. They send out a helpful and interesting monthly newsletter. There are heaps of books available too, with tables of foods relevant to your local area.

I've used the low GI diet before and did lose quite a bit of weight with it, and felt much better. It's time to do it all again with renewed vigor, so join me as I embark on this process once more, and while I search out interesting low GI foods (noone wants to be miserable just to be healthy!), recipes and products. Happily some of the foods I already eat and meals I already cook are low GI, some may need a bit of tweaking, and at other times I will be launching myself headlong into the unknown in search of new low GI wonders.