Fabulous Falafel

 Even before the allergists told me I can barely eat anything I love anymore, I have had a bit of an obsession with Middle Eastern food of late.
Luckily for me, most of the staple ingredients used in creating Middle Eastern dishes are on the list of foods I can have so keep an eye out for some Lebanese or Moroccan style flavours coming through the Countertop over the next while.
Hummus is one of my favourite foods ever and I eat it by the tub-full. A great accompaniment to hummus is of course Falafel and it just so happens to be quick, cheap and healthy to make.
A hummus and falafel dish with some side salad or grilled veg is such a winner of a meal and will keep you full and energised for hours.
I had it as my lunch last week and I was the envy of the office.
All you really need for this creation is a decent food processor and the oven so give it a lash and let me know how you get on.

Ingredients

400 gram tin of Chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 clove Garlic
1 sprig Fresh Parsley
1 Tsp. Ground Coriander
1 Tsp. Ground Cumin
½ Tsp. Salt
2 Tbsp. Regular Flour or Flour alternative
Dash Olive Oil

Method

If you want to bake your Falafels, add all the ingredients above to a food processor, Nutribullet or whatever appliance you use and whizz.
Preheat the oven to 200 Degrees Celcuis and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.
Take a small chunk of the falafel mix and squish it into a small patty or ball depending on your preference.
If it is not sticking together, add a bit more oil and give it another whizz but be careful not to add too much either.
When the oven is hot, add the tray to the middle shelf and let your falafels bake away for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and heated through.

If you want to fry your Falafels, add all the ingredients as above.
Heat some more oil on the pan.
Falafels cook better on the pan if they are in more of a patty shape than a ball shape so my advice would be to create a little Falafel ball and then press it down slightly to create a patty.
Pop your falafels on the pan and fry each side until golden brown and you’re happy the patty has been heated through.

As I mentioned earlier, Falafel goes great with hummus so why not try whizz up some homemade hummus too?!
You can find my recipe for this right here!

https://clodaghscountertopblog.wordpress.com/2016/06/09/homemade-hummus/

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Feature Fit Food #3 – Beetroot

It’s time again to break away from the usual recipe posts and give you guys the low down on another very important Superfood – Beetroot.

If you’re not yet a fan and think it tastes too strong to enjoy, have a read of this and maybe give them another try. I agree they are an acquired taste but they are well worth trying to introduce into your diet as their health benefits are far and wide and now that I’m used to them, I think they taste great too. Here’s hoping other beetroot eaters agree with me there!

 I started out having beetroot in my green juices just to get used to the taste when I heard how beneficial it was to have it as part of your 5 A Day. Once I got used to it (which wasn’t very long), I started to buy it raw and either steam or roast it to add to my meals. Now, beetroot is a staple in my diet and I don’t leave the vegetable aisle in the supermarket without it and get cranky if it’s not in stock. You will see it mentioned in some of my recipes already and I have many more recipes planned to share with you guys where I use it. One of my favourite recipes where I use beetroot is my “Beetroot, Feta and Quinoa” (https://clodaghscountertopblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/30/beetroot-feta-quinoa/) It is absolutely delish!

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 Anyway, down to the nitty gritty of it all. I wanted to write this post to share with you why you should include beetroot as part of your 5 A Day as it has a wide range of health benefits and nutritional advantages.

 Firstly, what beetroot is most commonly known for is it’s antioxidant super powers which counteract free radicals and their damaging effects in the body. As there are more free radicals than antioxidants in the body, we need to supply ourselves with extra antioxidants in order to neutralize the blood stream. Whether you add it to a salad or stir it into a soup or juice, beetroot is a great way to increase the antioxidant supply to the body.

 Beetroot also contains a nutrient rich property called Betalain that helps contribute to an increase in optimal health. Along with this, it is an excellent anti-inflammatory and also contributes highly to detoxification of the body. So. Many. Super Powers!!

Below is a highlight of all the nutritional properties of beetroot that will hopefully entice you to give it a try;

 Per 100 grams of Beetroot

Calories 43
Fat 0%
Cholesterol 0%
Sodium 3%
Potassium 9%
Carbohydrate 3%
Fibre 11%
Protein 3%

 To summarize the above, beetroot is naturally low in fat and high in fibre making it an excellent addition to a healthy lifestyle. Following that, it is also high in Iron, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and Magnesium adding to its richness in nutrients.

 So that’s the sales pitch, no doubt you can see the benefits of adding the Super food to your diet so if you haven’t already, give it a go and let me know what you reckon or drop me a comment if you have any recipe ideas or need some inspiration!

Chicken & Lentil Hot Pot

Last week was the week before pay day for me so there were slim pickin’s in the pantry.
I always to try to keep my budget meals as healthy as possible and not resort to giant bowls of pasta so I had a look at what I had and thought about what I fancied eating.
The result was this really hearty and wholesome hot pot or stew that I packed out with chunky veggies and lentils along with chicken thighs and it tasted great.
I used the right combo of ingredients to keep me feeling full for hours but I still found myself going back for more as it was just so yum.
This is a real Sunday kind of dinner or cold day dinner as it’s super comforting and full of flavour.
You can make up a bulk batch and freeze some off too.
The only thing I would say with this one is that it doesn’t keep for too long so decide before you start cooking what you’re going to do with the batch.
I would advise to keep it up to two days in the fridge or else freeze straight away after you’ve had you first serve.
Don’t be put off by this however as it’s highly unlikely the hot pot will last this long if you make it right, I even had it for breakfast the next morning!

Ingredients

400 grams boneless, skinless Chicken Thighs
300 grams Red Lentils, uncooked but rinsed
1 Brown Onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves Garlic, roughly chopped
1 Litre Vegetable or Chicken Stock or 50/50
3 Carrots, chopped
4 Celery Stalks, chopped
1 Tsp. Dried Ginger
1 Tbsp. Chili Flakes
1 Tbsp. Paprika
1 Tsp. Ground Coriander
Salt & Pepper to taste
(play around with your seasoning as much as you like, you don’t have to stick the above measurements)
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 handful of Fresh Coriander to serve

Method

Heat the olive oil in a large pot and add the onions and garlic.
Once the onions and garlic are aromatic and starting to brown, add the chicken fillets to the pot and cook until seared.
Pour in the stock and add your carrots and celery.
Add your seasoning to taste and cook on low for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Pour in the rinsed red lentils and give the pot a good stir.
Leave the pot to bubble away on a low heat for another 10-15 minutes, doing taste tests along the way until your happy with the flavour.
(I wanted to go for a bit of an Asian flavour as it is Summer so see if you can get that too)
Once you’re happy with the taste and your chicken is thoroughly cooked, serve your stew with some fresh coriander sprinkled on top.
Delish!

Homemade Fit Food – Granola

Granola is a really good contributor to a healthy diet – but only if its not loaded with sugar like so many brands available on the market now.
I remember thinking I was only brilliant having granola with my yogurt instead of cereal but it can pretty scary when you read the packet and see what’s actually in there.
So to save myself the bother, I experimented around in the kitchen instead and have started to make my own so I know exactly whats gone into it and I’m not loading up on hidden sugars.
Granola is one of those foods that you can keep versatile, there’s no set list of ingredients you have to abide by.
Nuts and seeds would be my main additions but that’s not to say you can’t use dried fruits among other ingredients, that’s just my personal preference.
Anyway, here is a quick breakdown of how I make my own granola. Hopefully it will inspire you to throw some of your own together for an energy filled breakfast.

Ingredients

1 cup Porridge Oats
1/4 cup Chopped Almonds
1/4 cup Pumpkin Seeds
1/4 cup mix of Chia, Flax and Sesame Seeds
1/2 cup Dried Goji Berries
1/4 cup Raisins/Sultanas
1/2 cup Honey

Method

Preheat the oven to 200 Degrees C.
Pour the porridge oats, almonds and all your seeds into a bowl and mix around.
On some greased parchment paper on an oven tray, pour out the oast and seed mix to make one layer.
Place the oven tray into the middle shelf of the oven and toast your mix for about 10-15 minutes or until the mix becomes golden brown.
Transfer your oat and seed mix back into a bowl and add the berries, raisins and honey.
Evenly coat the mix with the honey and spread back out onto a flat dish.
Leave to cool and set in the fridge for a couple of hours and then move your granola into an aitight container.

This will keep for a good few days and can be used to mix through some yogurt for a really yummy breakfast.

Feature Fit Food #2 – Spinach

Spinach, in all it’s dark green glory, really is a super Superfood.
This leafy green vegetable is bursting with nutrient richness and so many health benefiting properties.
Although some would say it’s an acquired taste, spinach is certainly a vegetable that everyone should try to incorporate into their diet and this post is going to give you a few reasons why.
I myself am one of this Leaf’s biggest fans using it in almost every meal in some form and go through bags of it in my weekly grocery shop.
You can buy spinach in its fresh form from the vegetable aisle but I also always keep a big bag of frozen spinach in the freezer to use in cooking.
When it comes to my diet, the more spinach the better and here are a few facts to show you why.

Below is the Nutritional Information Per 100 grams of Fresh Spinach:

Calories

23 g
Fat 0.4 g
Cholesterol 0 g
Sodium 79 mg
Potassium 558 mg
Carbohydrate 3.6 g
Dietary Fibre 22 g
Sugar 0.4 g
Protein 2.9 g

To summarise the above table, Spinach is basically class! It’s low in Fat and Cholesterol and high in Potassium, Protein and Fibre.
Along with these rich properties, Spinach is also a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
Studies have also liked Spinach to have some anti-cancerous properties also.

The nutritious properties of Spinach does not stop there though. There is a whole host of other vitamins and minerals that Spinach has that only adds to its superness!

Per 100 grams of fresh spinach, there is 187% of your Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of Vitamin A.
Vitamin A provides certain health benefits such as immune support, eye health, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

There is also 9% RDA Of Calcium which is crucial to bone health and brain-to-body communication.

With 40% RDA of Vitamin C, Spinach is a great way to increase your intake of this highly important vitamin. Vitamin C provides support for the growth and repair of tissue, repair of wounds and also helps produce Collagen.

100 grams of Spinach packs in 15% RDA of Iron too which is essential for healthy blood in the body. There is also 10% RDA Of the ever-important Vitamin B6 which we need to release energy from our food and reduce tiredness and fatigue.

Last but certainly not least, there is 19% RDA of Magnesium. Magnesium is an under-rated mineral that provides so many health benefits including tissue repair, immune support, heart health, diabetes prevention and some studies also link good levels of magnesium to a lower level of depression and headaches.

So I think it’s safe to say from the above that Spinach really is a super food and the more we incorporate it into our diet, the better off we’ll be.

Check out a couple of my recipes that include Spinach under the “Green” category and keep an eye out for more to come!

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Homemade Fit Food – Peanut Butter Dip

This little winner is so simple to make and will help you keep on track with all the healthy changes you’ve been making.
Packed with protein and energy, this dip will fill you nicely before or after a workout or will wait quietly for you in the fridge for when you have a burst of craves.
Give it a lash and let me know what you reckon?!

Ingredients

½ cup (Low Fat) Greek Yogurt
¼ cup good quality Peanut Butter (crunchy is better in my opinion for this but up to you!)
½ Tbsp. Lemon Juice

Method

Not even a recipe guys, throw all 3 ingredients into the blender or Nutribullet or even use a bit of elbow grease and mix until even.
Chop up some fruit or veg or whatever you want to dip in and enjoy the yummy goodness 🙂

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Turkey & Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

I’m always thinking of new ways to use my favourite lean ingredients for my main meals so that I don’t grow tired of the same food day-in-day-out and to keep myself interested in healthy eating.
I’ve been on the Turkey Burger train the last few months and as tasty as they are, I wanted to find other ways to use turkey mince so that I can mix it up week to week.
My other lunch staple is always Spinach and then I’ll always use whatever else is in the fridge to make some sort of meal out of these guys.
So my latest idea was to give Stuffed Peppers a try. They always look so pretty and when you break down the ingredients I figured you can make them to be good and healthy so I said I’d give them a go.
I was pretty chuffed with the finished product and again they’re quick to make and cheap to buy so 10/10 all ‘round.
Enjoy folks!!

Ingredients

400 grams Lean Turkey Mince
100 grams Quinoa, uncooked
300 ml Chicken Stock
4 large Peppers, halved and deseeded
4 cubes Frozen Spinach
25 grams Feta, crumbled
1 Tsp. Onion Granules
1 Tsp. Garlic Powder
½ Tsp. Chili Flakes
Salt & Pepper to taste

Method

Preheat the oven to 200 Degrees C and line an oven tray with greased tin foil.
In a pot, cook quinoa in the chicken stock as per the packet instructions.
While the quinoa is cooking, heat some olive oil on a pan and fry the turkey mice.
Pour some boiling water over the frozen spinach and leave to defrost for a couple of minutes.
Drain the spinach of any excess water and add to the turkey.
Add all of the seasoning and stir through.
Cook until the mince has begun to brown and leave to one side.
Making sure your peppers have been hollowed out, place them on the oven tray.
When your quinoa has been cooked through, transfer from the pot and add it to the turkey mix and stir in.
Use a spoon to scoop the turkey and quinoa mix from the pan and fill each of the halved peppers.
When all of the peppers have been filled, sprinkle the crumbled feta on the top of each pepper.
Place your oven tray on the middle shelf of the oven and roast the stuffed peppers for 10-15 minutes or until the feta has started to brown.
Remove the tray from the oven and serve immediately.

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I’m having mine this week with fresh spinach and steamed asparagus and its delish!

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Homemade Fit Food- Blueberry Power Muffins

The next instalment of my Fit Food Series are the little beauties I like to call Blueberry Power Muffins.
This Fit Food has a similar recipe to my Porridge Bread so if you’ve tried that you’ll know they’re cheap and cheerful to whack together.
My Power Muffins are packed with energy, protein and anti-oxidants so they’re well worth giving a go.
Have Fun!

Ingredients

1 x 500  ml cup Greek Style Yogurt
2 cup Porridge Oats (rinse out yogurt tub and fill twice with oats)
1 Tsp. Baking Soda
1 Tbsp. Stevia Sweetener
1 small punnet Fresh Blueberries
1 Tbsp. Chia Seeds
1 egg, beaten
Olive Oil Cooking Spray

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 Degrees C.
Spray a muffin tray with olive oil spray and set to one side.
In a large mixing bowl, add yogurt, baking soda and stevia sweetener and stir briskly until the mix starts to rise.
Pour oats in gradually and stir until fully covered by yogurt.
Add blueberries and beaten egg and continue to mix until you’ve created an even dough-like mixture.
Scoop out the mix bit by bit into the muffin cases until all the mix has been used up.
Sprinkle the chia seeds and some porridge oats over each muffin and push down with the back of a spoon so they’ll stick.
Pop the muffin tray in the oven and bake for about 20-25 minutes.’
They may need a little longer so judge this by how moist the dough in the middle of one muffin is until you’re happy they’re cooked though.
Once cooked, leave the muffins to cool on a wire rack for a few minutes.

These Power Muffins are great to throw in your lunch box or gym bag and have as a mid-morning or pre workout snack.
Leave a comment and let me know what you think 😉

Homemade Hummus

When making small changes to your diet to become healthier, another ideal food to add to the menu is Hummus. Hummus is mainly made from Chick Peas that are packed with protein, fibre and omega 3.
You can use it as a trusty condiment for snacks or as an alternative dip or side sauce for more substantial meals. One of the most well known ways to have hummus is with carrot batons but I also like to use it as an alternative to mayonnaise or butter on (porridge) bread, crackers, wraps. My favourite way to have it is with Falafel as a side sauce. The two are a match made in heaven.

You can also vary the flavours of hummus you have if you want to keep it interesting and enticing.
Flavours such as garlic & lemon, roast carrot, red pepper and my favourite, beetroot, are just some examples of how you can spice it up.

Here are the basic instructions to make it and I’ll include some tips on how to add the extra flavours further down.

Ingredients

1 tin Chick Peas, rinsed
2 cloves Garlic, peeled
Juice of 1 Lemon
2 Tbsp. Tahini
Pinch of Ground Cumin
1.5 Tbsp. Olive Oil
3 Tbsp. Water
Salt & Pepper to taste

Method

Simply combine all these ingredients into a food processor, blender or Nutribullet
and whizz until you reach the consistency you want.
You may need to add a tipple more of water or olive oil so keep going until you’re happy with how it looks.
Do a taste test and see if you want to add a bit more seasoning, its totes up to you how you want it to taste!

If you want to mix it up and make some beautifully coloured and flavoured hummus to show off, the recipe is easy to add to.

For roast carrot, pepper or beetroot hummus, simply chop up your chosen vegetable into small chunks, spread out on a baking tray and cook for 10-15 minutes.
After you have made your base hummus, add the roast veg to the mixer and whizz it through.

For lemon & garlic hummus or sundried tomato and basil, again just chop up your desired ingredients and add them to the base hummus to combine.

Once you’ve made the base recipe, its hard to go wrong with adding different flavours so have some fun with it and enjoy the end result!

The Salad Bar – Tomato & Chick Pea Salad

This is such a good On-The-Go salad to have made up or it can be used as a side dish to a main meal.It takes 5 minutes to put together and tastes fab. Its super filling and packed with fibre too.

Ingredients

1 tin Chick Peas
6 small – medium Tomatoes
1 Tbsp. Turmeric
1 Tbsp. Cracked Black Pepper
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Sprig of Fresh Parsley

Method

Empty the tin of chick peas into a colander and rinse thoroughly.
Leave to one side and let the excess water dry off.
Chop the tomatoes into quarters and add to a large mixing bowl.
Finely chop the fresh parsley and add to the bowl along with the pepper and turmeric.
Add the chick peas and the olive oil to the bowl now and then mix it all up so that your seasoning and oil covers the
tomatoes and chick peas evenly.
Easy Peasy!

Homemade Fit Food – Granola Bites

Another bangin’ treat bursting with energy and flavour, these granola bites are as quick to make as they will
be to eat. As usual, the optional extras can be whatever you fancy or whatever you have handy in the pantry.
They are also a no-bake recipe so they’re ideal for those who are time poor. I actually put them together in the time it took to boil the kettle and make a cuppa.

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Ingredients

1 1/2 cups (toasted) porridge oats
1 cup raisins or sultanas or 50/50
1/2 cup Almonds, chopped
1/2 cup Hazelnuts
1/2 cup Mixed Seeds
1/4 cup Peanut Butter
1/4 cup Honey
(any optional extras e.g. chocolate chips, walnuts, goji berries, dried cranberries, peanuts etc)

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Method

If you are toasting your oats, preheat the oven to 180 Degrees C and pour the oats onto some greased parchment paper.
Put the paper on an oven tray and pop in the oven once preheated for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
If you are not toasting the oats, skip to the following step:
Pour oats, hazelnuts, almonds, raisins/sultanas and mixed seeds into a large mixing bowl.
On a low heat, warm both the honey and peanut butter together in a pot and mix together.
Once combined, pour the mixture into the mixing bowl and mix all of the ingredients evenly.
Add the chocolate chips at the end and mix through (the warm honey and peanut butter will start to melt the choc-chips if you add them too early).
Once you’re happy with the mixture, line an appropriate sized baking dish with parchment paper and transfer the mix onto the paper in the dish.
Press firmly down on the mix to fill up any cracks and gaps and smooth out evenly.
Keep pressing until it’s fully compressed.
Cover the dish with cling film and pop in the fridge to chill for a couple of hours.
*After about an hour, I melted some dark chocolate in a pot and poured it over the top of the bar for extra yumminess.
Once fully chilled and set, remove from the dish and cut up your bites into whatever size you like.
I did about 1 inch X 1 inch so I could make loads and share them out.
These guys will be good to store for a few days as there is very little to them.
Keep stored in the fridge in a lunchbox to make them last.

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Eggtastic Meal Prep Ideas

Mini Egg Muffins

These little bundles of joy are a really good way to increase your daily protein intake. I’m a huge fan of them because of their simple and flexible recipe that can be interpreted any way you want with whatever ingredients you love. A great addition to any meal preppers menu, egg muffins can be eaten as a healthy snack or for breakfast. They freeze well too so feel free to cook up as big a batch as you like.
Here I’m going to give you a quick low down on the base recipe but keep in mind you can add pretty much whatever you like to them after that.

Ingredients

12 medium – large eggs
Salt and Pepper to taste
Dash of Olive Oil or knob of real butter
Chosen selection of extra fillings (see further down for some examples)

Method

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C.
Crack all of the eggs into a large mixing bowl, add your seasoning and whisk!
Using either your olive oil or bit of butter, grease up a 12-hole muffin tray.
Place a small handful of your chosen fillings into each muffin hole – about ½ way full.
Pour in your egg mixture until almost to the top of each muffin hole.
Pop the muffin tray on to the middle shelf of your oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until each egg muffin has risen and has begun to brown.
To make sure they are cooked throughout, use a metal skewer or something similar and pop into the muffin and remove. If the skewer has some egg mix on it, leave to cook a little longer.
Once cooked, remove the muffin tray and leave to cool.
Serve immediately or if it’s for meal prep, pop in the fridge until cold then pack away in some lunchboxes.
These egg muffins are good for about 2-3 days from fresh and can be reheated or eaten cold.

My favourite egg muffin combos are as follows;

Ham and Cheese (obvs)
Feta
Chorizo
Tomato
Spinach
Mushroom
Pesto
Mixed Peppers
Pumpkin Seeds
Quinoa

These are just a few examples of my favourites and can be mixed and matched whatever way you like.

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Frittata

Frittata is another wonderful way to increase your daily intake of protein and is a super healthy and easy meal to make.
Similar to our Egg Muffins, Frittata can be whipped up in just a few minutes and can be served immediately or stored for meal prep.
Frittata is also a handy way to use up any veg you have in the fridge or even the last few spoonfuls of pesto.
Frittata is like a giant egg muffin so the recipe is almost identical;

Ingredients

6+ medium – large eggs (depending on big you want your frittata to be e.g. 6 eggs will fill a bread loaf tin, 12 eggs will fill a quiche dish etc)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Dash of Olive Oil or knob of real butter
Chosen selection of extra fillings (see further down for some examples)

Method

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C.
Crack all of the eggs into a large mixing bowl, add your seasoning and whisk!
Using either your olive oil or bit of butter, grease up your baking dish.
I use a bread loaf tin with about 6 eggs and get around 4-6 slices from this.
Spread your choice of fillings evenly into your baking dish until about half way full.
Pour in your egg mixture until almost to the top, around ¾ of the way.
Pop the loaf tin on to the middle shelf of your oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the frittata has risen and has begun to brown.
To make sure it is cooked throughout, use a metal skewer or something similar and pop into the centre of the frittata and remove. If the skewer has some egg mix on it, leave to cook a little longer.
Once cooked, remove the loaf tin and leave to cool.
Serve immediately or if it’s for meal prep, pop in the fridge until cold then pack away in some lunchboxes.
Frittata is good for about 2-3 days from fresh and can be reheated or eaten cold.
It tastes great served with some fresh garden salad or even with sweet potato fries for a main meal.

Examples of some Frittata Fillings:

Ham and Cheese
Feta
Chorizo
Tomato
Spinach
Mushroom
Pesto
Mixed Peppers
Butternut Squash
Red Onion
Goats Cheese
Pumpkin Seeds