Zucchini Corn & Basil Soup

Just back from a few days away for Easter, I had some zucchinis in the fridge looking a little tired, just begging to be rescued.  With little else available, not much time on my hands and as I hate throwing food away, soup seemed like the easiest and best option for them. 

Green vegetables are an important part of any healthy eating plan and are of course best eaten soon after buying them to make sure they retain all of their wonderful nutrients.  Zucchinis typically are an excellent source of manganese (an important trace mineral) and vitamin C (antioxidant, immune system) and a very good source of magnesium (nerve & muscle function),  beta-carotene (precursor for Vitamin A – eyes & immune system), fibre (healthy bowel function), potassium (blood pressure), folate (red blood cell production & cardiovascular health), copper (trace mineral that works along with iron), riboflavin (vitamin B2 – important role in energy production) and phosphorus (mineral required for good bone and cell health). Wow!

I always have frozen corn on hand as it is so handy, although I will admit fresh corn does always taste better.  Corn, a  low GI starchy vegetable is a good source of many nutrients including thiamin (vitamin B1 – nerve, muscle & heart function), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5 – lots of roles including energy production), folate, dietary fibre, vitamin C, phosphorus and manganese.

Fresh herbs are a great addition to any dish adding a wonderful fresh flavour as well as extra nutrients.  Basil is one of my favourite herbs as it is so versatile (goes well with Asian, Italian or Greek food) and very easy to grow here in Sydney. Adding milk to the soup gives it a little creaminess but also adds calcium (for bone strength) which most of us don’t get enough of every day.

This is a really quick and yummy soup which makes a very healthy snack.  A larger serve could also be a great lunch along with some crusty sourdough bread topped with a lean protein source (turkey, tuna or even a little cheese for extra calcium!).

I think this is one of those staples you will make again and again….Enjoy 🙂

 

Zucchini Corn and Basil Soup

Makes 4 serves

  • 2 large zucchinis
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons Massel vegetable stock powder
  • 1/2 cup low fat milk
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh basil, shredded (or you could use chives, parsley, coriander…)
  • pepper

Place zucchini, corn and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer over gentle heat for 10 minutes or until zucchini is soft. Remove from heat and puree in a blender or with a hand held blender until smooth. Stir through stock powder, milk and basil. Add pepper to taste.

Each serve (just over 1 cup/250ml) has 81 calories, 4g protein, 1 g total fat, 0.3g saturated fat, 3g of fibre (approx 10% of daily fibre requirements) and 67mg calcium (roughly 7% of your daily calcium requirement)

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Tamari Sunflower Seeds

 

I do love a savoury snack and these are really yummy – a great alternative to potato crisps and any of those other high fat savoury snacks

I see Tamari Almonds for sale everywhere now, so I thought I would try the same idea with sunflower seeds.  I love sunflower seeds as they have a mild, nutty flavour and I include them in a lot of my baking – cakes, biscuits, bread, muesli etc.  They are a great source of lots of important nutrients, minerals and vitamins such as:

  • vitamin E which is a powerful antioxidant that can help to prevent cardiovascular disease and is good for your skin
  • plant sterols like the ones they now extract and add to food (margarines, cheese, milk etc) to help lower your cholesterol
  • magnesium which is important for strong healthy bones and energy production.  It also helps nerve and muscle cells to function properly, preventing muscular cramping and headaches
  • selenium, a trace mineral which many studies have shown to reduce your risk of cancer
  • protein which can help to keep you full for longer
  • polyunsaturated fats – for this reason they are quite high in calories and also are best stored in the fridge to prevent them from going rancid

Tamari is a Japanese style soy sauce.  I find it has a more interesting flavour and isn’t quite as salty as normal soy sauce.  Many people think it is wheat free, however you will need to check the label to determine this.  The one I used was Kikkoman’s tamari which is not wheat free.

These tasty seeds are delicious on their own, but can also be included as part of a trail mix or sprinkled on salads or vegies like steamed green beans.  They are very quick and easy to make,  just note that the serving size is quite small – 2 tablespoons only. Enjoy 🙂

Tamari Sunflower Seeds

Makes 8 serves

  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon tamari

 Preheat oven to 150-160 degrees (moderate temperature) and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Place sunflower seeds in a bowl, pour over tamari and mix well

Tip onto the  lined baking tray, spread out evenly and bake in moderate oven for 30 minutes, stirring once after 15 minutes to ensure they toast evenly

When toasted, cool, then place in an airtight container.  They keep for around 2 weeks

Note – not all my sunflower seeds are coated in tamari as I originally tried 2 tablespoons of tamari with 1 cup seeds.  This was too strong so I mixed in another cup of seeds in after they were cooked!

Per serve (approx 2 Tablespoons, 20g) = 109 calories

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Figs with Greek Yoghurt & Honey

I love this time of year, not only as the weather is milder, but there is so much wonderful fruit around

One of those wonderful fruit, which has a very short season so you have to grab them quickly, is figs

Figs are high in fibre, which is important for regular bowel function and a good source of potassium which can help normalise blood pressure.  Regardless, they are yummy.  They have a soft, smooth skin, slightly chewy flesh and who can resist those crunchy seeds (those crunchy seeds initially put me off wanting to try them – but that was many many years ago!)

They are delicious on their own, but also team well with both sweet & savoury dishes.  In fact, one of my favorite salads is a simple rocket, fresh fig and goats cheese salad with a balsamic vinegar & olive oil dressing, which teams well with steak, chicken or fish – yum 🙂  

Figs are also fabulous on a cheese platter as they go so well with any cheese, including thinly shaved parmessan and either fresh or baked low fat ricotta.  However, this is one of my absolute favorite ways of eating them, which makes a great snack, that is both quick and delicious and there is no cooking required!!  It is also high in calcium, which is important for everyone for strong healthy bones, low fat and very low GI (and moreish!)

Enjoy 🙂

Fresh Figs with Low fat Greek Yoghurt & Honey

Serves 1 (note – picture shows 2 serves)

Simply grab a fresh fig, take off the very top of the stem and cut it into quarters

Place 3 tablespoons of a delicious low fat Greek style yoghurt (I recommend Jalna or Black Swan) in a bowl

Place figs around edge of yoghurt and drizzle with 1 1/2 teaspoons of a really good honey (we are currently using one from a Farmers Market in Mudgee which is deeelicious!)

This divine snack has a tiny 95 calories and 160mg of calcium

(47mg sodium & 285mg potassium)

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spiced pea and corn pancakes

About 6 months ago I subscribed to a new magazine called HealthSmart which I quite enjoy.  It is published by readers digest and I got onto their website today looking for a carrot cake recipe they mentioned in this months mag.  I couldn’t find the cake recipe, but found these instead which I thought looked rather good and I particularly liked that they have oats in them.  So I thought I would give them a go and they are really yummy!

The type of curry paste you use will greatly vary the flavour of these pancakes.  I used a Malaysian curry paste which isn’t very hot, but you could use a green or red Thai curry paste which would add a bit of a chilli kick, or even tandoori paste (which I think I will try next time).  I would imagine that the addition of some fresh herbs, like coriander would also be good.

I served my pancakes (actually they look more like pikelets) with some really yummy plum & apple chutney I had made recently and it teamed really well with them.  Mango chutney,  tomato relish or even just natural low fat yoghurt (or natural yoghurt with a little horseradish in it) would also work well.  Or you can eat them just as they are.

You can find the original recipe here on the readers digest website.  Of course I changed it a little.  I used a greater amount of wholemeal flour and I just threw the frozen peas and corn in without thawing them, patting them dry etc etc, and hey, they worked out just fine!!  I also used such a small amount of oil (less than 2 teaspoons, where the original recipe mentions 2 Tablespoons!) when cooking them – in my new Tefal non-stick flat frying pan, which I LOVE! 🙂

Give them a go.  They are quick, easy, healthy and yummy.  What a great after school snack for hungry kids!

Enjoy 🙂

spiced pea and corn pancakes

makes 18

  • ½ cup wholemeal flour
  • ¼ cup plain flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ cup rolled oats
  • 2 teaspoons curry paste
  • 150 ml low-fat milk
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 1⅓ cups frozen peas
  • ½ red capsicum, deseeded and diced
  • 1-2 teaspoons vegetable oil

1. Sift the plain and wholemeal flours and baking powder into a bowl, adding any bran left in the sieve. Stir in the oats, corn, capsicum and peas and salt and pepper if you like.

2. Blend the curry paste with 2 tablespoons of the milk, then stir this into the remaining milk and add the beaten eggs.

3. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the eggs and milk. Mix until well combined.  Leave the batter to stand for 5 minutes to thicken.

4. Heat a large, heavy-based (Tefal 30cm) non-stick frying pan over a medium heat, then brush with a little of the oil. Using a large spoonful of batter per pancake, cook them in batches for 2–3 minutes until golden brown. Turn the pancakes over using a spatula, then cook the other side for 2–3 minutes. Remove from the pan and keep warm in a low oven while you cook the remaining batter. Serve warm.

 

Each pancake/pikelet has 60 calories and almost 2g of fibre

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Beetroot Dip

 

Many commercially available dips can be high in fat, high in calories and contain fillers like breadcrumbs as well as undesirable  preservatives, acidity regulators, extra salt and even sugar.

Dips are really easy to make yourself, especially if you have a food processor, and beetroot dip is one of the easiest as it has only 3 ingredients.  It is also one of the cheapest if you use homebrand beetroot (75c per tin in Woolworths and a product of Australia) and this beetroot dip is low in fat, especially saturated fat.

When eating dips, one of the traps can be what you serve them with.  Many savoury style biscuits are very high in fat and so is the trendier dipping choice, lavoche.  I prefer to use vegetable sticks (VERY low in calories!) or pita crisps which are quick and easy to make yourself (watch for upcoming post).  Just dry bake sliced pita breads in a moderately hot oven for about 20 minutes.

I encourage you to give this a go as it is deeelicious.  Enjoy 🙂

Beetroot Dip

Serves 8

  • 1 x 425g tin sliced beetroot, drained
  • 2 Tablespoons tahini
  • 1 teaspoon horseradish cream

Place beetroot, tahini and horseradish cream in food processor and process until smooth.  That’s it!!

Per serve 55g = approx 3 tablespoons = 56 calories 🙂

Served with 1/4 large lebanese bread = approx 120 calories

 

 

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Cornbread…yum!!!

It may be hard to believe considering my track record of posting many, many sweet recipes, but I actually prefer savoury foods over sweet.  One of those savoury foods which has always intrigued me is cornbread.  For some reason I have been on a mission to try to find a great cornbread recipe (during which time I have found many terrible ones)…and I think I finally have found it 🙂

Cornbread is very common in American cuisine, more specifically south or southwestern cuisine where it is often served with barbecued meats or chilli con carne.   Cornbread can be baked, steamed or fried.  These different cooking techniques will dramatically change both the taste and texture of the finished product.  Sometimes it can be so sloppy it is eaten with a spoon!  However I prefer the baked style which is also known as a quick bread = a bread which is quickly made since it doesn’t contain yeast. 

Some cornbread recipes I have tried in the past have been quite dry as the cornmeal or polenta used in it has a dry and gritty texture, but this also helps to provide cornbread with the lovely crunch.  With this recipe I added zucchini and used buttermilk (1/2 yoghurt, 1/2 milk)  to provide a little extra moisture.  I also added some fresh red capsicum as I think it teams really well with corn.  Roasted capsicum could be used instead.  Other ideas for more flavours to add are cold roasted pumpkin, crumbled fetta and/or fresh basil.  I think I will try all of those next time and make them into individual sized muffins.  They would be a great picnic food.

This recipe made 1 x 8 inch (20cm) square tin.  It is very easy to slice so can be slice quite thinly (or thickly of course).  It lends itself to spreading butter on it, but try to resist the urge as it is not necessary and will only add many extra unnecessary calories and saturated fat.  It is lovely warm straight out of the oven on its own, and I can imagine serving it with some delicious homemade tomato & basil or pumpkin soup….mmm. Enjoy 🙂

Cornbread with zucchini and capsicum

  • ½ cup wholemeal self raising flour
  • ½ cup white self raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 2 Tablespoons castor sugar
  • 1 medium zucchini (150g) grated
  • ½ cup diced red capsicum
  • 1 cup buttermilk (I used half yoghurt, half milk)
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 egg

 Line a 20cm square tin with baking paper.  Preheat oven to 170 degrees.

Into a large bowl, sift flours and baking powder, add salt, polenta, sugar, zucchini and capsicum.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together egg, buttermilk and olive oil, pour into dry ingredients and stir through until well mixed. 

Pour into prepared tin and bake for 30 mins approximately, until firm to touch on top. 

Leave to cool in tin for 5 minutes, then place on rack to cool.

Would easily slice into 24 pieces with each piece having:

312kJ = 74 calories

2g protein, 10g carbohydrate, 2.5g fat with only 0.5g saturated fat and 0.7g fibre

Oops, I forgot to add that it is a little odd putting sugar in a savoury bread, however I have tried it with and without and it definitely has a better texture WITH the sugar.  The end result is in no way sweet.

I also do not usually add salt when cooking but this is another time when it makes such a difference in bringing out all the lovely flavours of the bread.  It is only a small amount after all and would be a lot less than what is in regular bread 🙂

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Anzacs made with Olive Oil

Staying on my healthier biscuit theme, I love anzacs and always thought of them as a healthier choice, I guess due to the oats.  Of course the first time I made them I quickly realised that they weren’t so ‘healthy’ but that certainly didn’t stop me from continuing to make and eat them!

In the past I’ve tried to make an anzac with less sugar and butter, but they have never come close to the deliciousness of the original.  So I decided not to bother for a slight saving of calories and fat!

Thinking outside the square this time, I chose to just try reducing the saturated fat by using oil instead of butter and this seemed to work.  This version also has slightly less sugar than the original recipe and an increase in fibre from using wholemeal flour.

Note that this does not cut down the calories, just reduces the saturated fat – however this is important for everyone, and especially important for those with high cholesterol.  Regardless, these biscuits are very moreish.  Enjoy 🙂

Olive Oil Anzacs

Makes 20

  • 1/2 cup wholemeal flour
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup dessicated coconut
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons sandy brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons golden syrup
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons olive  oil
  • 2 teaspoons boiling water
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Preheat oven to 170 degrees.  Line 2 flat trays with baking paper.

Sift flour into a medium sized bowl.  Add oats, coconut and sugar.

Place golden syrup and oil in small saucepan and heat until bubbles just start to appear on the surface.

Add boiling water and bicarbonate soda and stir until well mixed through.

Quickly pour into bowl with dry ingredients and mix through thoroughly. 

Shape heaped teaspoons of mix into balls and place on trays, flattening well.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.  When cooled, if there are any left, store in an airtight container.

Original recipe – each 14g biscuit has 65 calories, 3.7g fat, 2.6g saturated fat, 3.7g sugar, 0.5g fibre per biscuit

New version – each 14g biscuit has 64 calories, 3.7g total fat, 1.4g saturated fat, 3.1g sugar, 0.8g fibre

I figure that is an improvement!

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Chocolate Pecan & Cranberry Biscuits

It’s been a while between posts, but this one was worth waiting for as it’s time for a chocolate fix!

It is quite difficult to make a low fat biscuit as compared to a cake or muffin where you can use fruit purees in place of fat.  Using fruit purees in a biscuit significantly changes the texture of a biscuit however and makes it more cake-like.  This is not good!  It is also difficult to make a low fat biscuit without some butter due to the flavour and texture that butter provides a biscuit.  I was able  to cut down the amount of butter used however (important to lower saturated fat content) by using half oil and this seems to work well 🙂  I also managed to cut the sugar back a little in these, however again cutting back too much does affect the quality and makes a not-so-nice biscuit.

So after many trials and tribulations this version of delicious chocolate bikkies were a hit at work so I am confident you will enjoy them also.

They are a lovely little crisp biscuit with an increase in fibre (from using 1/2 wholemeal flour) and of course the reduced fat and sugar content as compared to a regular chocolate biscuit.  They are also rather quick and easy to make – they take around 10 minutes to mix up and I manage to do them all in one bowl (less washing up!!).  Once cold, store the biscuits in an air-tight container.  If you don’t want to cook all the mix at once it will keep in the fridge for 5 days (well covered so the mix won’t dry out) or you could try freezing it for a week.  Allow to completely thaw before baking. Most of all – Enjoy 🙂

Chocolate Pecan and Cranberry Biscuits

 

Makes 28 biscuits

  • 60g (¼ cup) butter, soft/room temperature
  • ½ cup (80g) sandy brown sugar
  • 2 Tbspn white sugar
  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup plain flour
  • ½ cup wholemeal plain flour
  • ¼ cup Dutch cocoa powder 
  • ¼ cup pecans or walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries (craisins) or raisins (chop if large) or use half and half

Preheat oven to 170 degrees.  Line 2 biscuit trays with baking paper

In a large bowl and with a wooden spoon, beat together the butter, sugar and oil until light and creamy. Add egg and vanilla and beat until well combined.

Sift together both flours and cocoa. Add the pecans and craisins and stir to coat (this will evenly distribute the pecans and craisins through the biscuits). Tip flour mix into butter mix and stir through until well combined.

Place heaped teaspoons of mixture on biscuit trays, this is easiest done using 2 teaspoons – one to scoop out the mixture and the other to scoop the mix off that teaspoon onto the baking tray.  Flatten slightly and  leave a little room between each biscuit (this is important to help with even baking). Bake for 12 minutes.  They are actually best cooked one tray at a time in the centre of the oven.

Do not over-bake as they can become tough or dry.

Each 20g biscuit has 83 calories and 1.5g saturated fat

Compared with a standard chocolate biscuit (also 20g) which has approx 100 calories and more than 2g saturated fat

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Zucchini, Walnut & Cranberry Loaf

I fully embrace any way in which you can increase your vegetable intake so this sounded like a good recipe to try – plus I got a heap of cheap zucchinis recently so was looking for something to do with them other than make soup!

This cake in many ways is similar to a carrot cake (so I may try it with carrots next and will let you know how that goes).  Zucchinis make a good base for a cake as they are pretty tasteless, however they add plenty of moisture.  Walnuts add a great crunch as well as being a good source of the essential omega 3 alpha linolenic acid and dried cranberries add a nice tartness (even though they are covered in sugar!)

This cake is very moist so it keeps quite well and is not too sweet.  I urge you to try it.  Enjoy 🙂

Zucchini Walnut and Cranberry Loaf

Makes 14 serves

  • ¾ cup wholemeal plain flour
  • ¾ cup white self raising flour
  • ½ teaspoon bicarb soda
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • ¼ cup chopped walnuts
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • 1 ½ cups (200g) grated zucchini
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup brown sugar

Line a loaf pan with baking paper.  Preheat oven to 180 degrees.  Sift together flours, soda, cinnamon and nutmeg into a medium sized bowl.  Add walnuts and cranberries and stir to coat with flour mix.  Add zucchini and set aside.  In another smaller bowl, whisk eggs and vanilla.  Add oil and sugar and whisk well. Pour egg mix into flour bowl and fold through until thoroughly combined.  Plop into prepared pan and smooth top.

Bake in oven for 30-35 mins until firm to touch.  Note that this cake doesn’t rise very much when cooking.  Wait until cool before cutting. 

This mix can also be used to make individual cakes or muffins

Makes 14 yummy slices at 150 calories each

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RSPCA Cupcake Day

Monday the 16th August was RSPCA Cupcake day.  People all over Australia were encouraged to bake delicious cupcakes and sell them with all takings going to this fantastic organisation.  So of course I had to get involved, especially since the RSPCA is my number one charity.

Wanting to do something a little special I googled for ideas and found these  little piggies  on the RSPCA cupcake website and pupcakes from a blog called rasperri cupcakes which includes all the steps on how to make them – how easy.  I thought were sooo cute that I had to try making both of them and this is how they turned out…

To make the cupcakes I started with my favorite cupcake and icing recipes from Women’s Weekly

I made the up the decorations for the piggie cakes following the photo from the web.  Added rose colored food dye to the icing and used mostly pink marshmallows for the nose and ears, until I ran out and had to use apricot ones (see below)! I sliced musk sticks to top off the nose and chopped up licorice for the eyes.

For the pup cakes I followed the instructions on raspberri cupcakes, however I used smarties for the eyes instead of choc chips, I added ears (half a marshmallow like the pigs) and instead of fairy floss (where do you buy that stuff??) I used shredded coconut.

Making these cupcakes was a lot of fun and made me feel good that I was contributing to this fantastic organisation, however they did take a long time to decorate, so I won’t be doing them again any time soon (well, at least for a year, until cupcake day next year!)

And they tasted deeeelicious!

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