Roasted Tomato & Red Pepper Soup and some Chia Seeds

This is my contribution to international soup day which recently just passed.

Roasted Tomato & Red Pepper Soup

1 kg tomatoes
2 biggish red peppers (deseeded)
1 onion
1 tsp garlic
½ spring fresh rosemary, chopped
1 cup beef / vegetable stock
2 tots sherry
1 tin tomato paste
olive Oil
salt
pepper
sugar
fresh basil

Cut a cross into the top of the tomatoes, with the peppers place onto a roasting tray, sprinkle salt, pepper olive oil and rosemary. Roast at 200°C for 45 minutes.

Chop onions and fry off in a little olive oil and a sprinkle of sugar until nicely caramelized, deglaze the pot with 1 tot of sherry, add garlic and tomato paste, fry until the oils starts slowly splitting from the tomato paste, deglaze the pot once more with the 2nd tot of sherry.

Add your roasted tomatoes and peppers and cook off for 10 minutes.  Add  salt & pepper and blitz up.  Add the fresh basil and blitz more until smooth.  Your soup at this stage will be really thick.

Add 1 cup of stock of choice and cook over a low heat for about 3 hours.  If your soup thickens up to much, just add a little more stock and cook out more.  You want the end result to be thick but not to chunky.

Add desired seasoning to taste and enjoy with fresh bread.

I roasted 2 or 3 cloves of garlic and just rubbed my ciabatta with it, with some fresh goats cheese, and it complimented the soup wonderfully.

I like to add Chia seeds to my soup.  I had done a little post about Chia seeds before, but here is a some more that I learnt and a slight update on how I am using it.

After further research on chia seeds, I have learnt the more nutritional way to use them.  Take 1/3 cup of chia seeds to 2 cups of water, mix and place in the fridge.  You are looking for a gel type substance that can last in your fridge for 3 weeks.  That is the substance you add to your smoothies or soups to really get the full punch of the chia seeds.  The gel that is formed is ready to eat in 10 minutes, however the longer the chia seeds stand in a liquid (water, juice smoothies etc) the more you will benefit from the nutritional value of it. Just an update on how chia seeds improve your lifestyle:
Provides energy
Boosts strength
Bolsters endurance
Levels blood sugar
Induces weight loss
Aids intestinal regularity

So I am going to start with a new challenge I have set myself this winter.  I am going to start with having chia seeds 3 times a day, eat healthy and properly, and slowly bring in basic exercise again, and of course, take my yoga seriously again.  Time for a change of life, maybe that will motivate me again!

Get yourself some!

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Soup & Sandwich, if you know me well enough, you will know that I absolutely love this concept.  I have slightly adapted it to something even better…in my opinion.

With the cooler weather that is surrounding us, we tend to crave warmth and comfort in our food, and why not just add a little “pazaaz” to our boring old winter food.

Soup & Quesadillas

I used my Rooibos infused  Butternut Soup recipe that you can find here. With that, I made the quesadillas. Now you can go wild and crazy with what fillings you wish desire, be creative and mix some flavours.  My quesadillas consisted of bacon, feta, cheddar and fresh basil, and let me tell you, the creamy freshness complimented the butternut soup beautifully.

What you will need to make your quesadillas…as easy as this…

Tortilla wraps
Your desired fillings

Heat a pan and place the tortilla wrap in the pan to heat, turn over as if flipping a pancake, place your filling on the one side and close the tortilla in half.  Let the bottom heat up and crisp a little before flipping over again.  You want the filling to be warm and the cheese all gooey and stringy, with the crispness on the outside…makes for that perfect bite!

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This is such a great light lunch, or the perfect easy quick dinner.  And so versatile, use your favourite soup and choose whatever filling you wish!  Tortilla wraps are a great substitute for bread, it is perfect for gluten intolerant people, and of course for anyone who is watching their weight.

Right now, I am busy cooking a delicious meat soup…recipe to follow soon!

Chickpea Greek Salad

A while ago I was thrown a curve ball in for a lunch order. This gentleman was a vegetarian but it had to be gluten free. I was stunned, because one could easily balance a vegetarian meal with a pasta of sorts, or even a nice gourmet sandwich. But gluten free…eish.

So I did a Chickpea Greek Salad, but I made it slightly more interesting. The best part is this keeps my healthy eating / living theme going strong.

Chickpea Greek Salad

1 can of chickpeas drained and rinsed
Spinach
cucumber
red cabbage
calamata olives
Danish feta
tomatoes
onions
Balsamic vinegar
Olive Oil
Chia Seeds

Create your salad in the style you wish, as you can see I enjoy large chunky pieces, I am not a huge fan of chopped salad style salads. Drizzle with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar and some chia seeds on top.
Well balanced salad. You can use it as a filling for a wrap as well.

Tropical Chia Seed Smoothie

I bought Chia seeds a few weeks ago from Rawlicious, after it was suggested to me by a fellow chef. It is part of the Raw Foods / Superfoods / Juicing trend that is currently happening. Now having discussed this with a few people, I have a few thoughts on this topic.

I am all for using the best quality product available and affordable to you, organic or not.

I believe to claim you are truly organic, it is a full lifestyle choice and something you live everyday.
Superfoods are available freely, rather pricey and if you can afford it, rather use natural products than chemical substitutes.

Juicing your food can be dangerous if you do not do your research properly, your body requires certain nutrients to function properly, do not make the mistake of starving your body.
Going raw / juicing for certain meals, only if you have a balanced properly worked out juice combination, is a good idea, and can be a great way to an alternative way to get your 3 balanced meals daily or use as a detox program, but be careful of doing it wrong. I have seen this go wrong where the person doing it ended up in hospital.

So what are Superfoods? In a nutshell, superfoods are the most concentrated mineral and nutrient dense organic foods with nutrients in their natural forms easily absorbable and usable by the body. They are high vibration foods revered by ancient cultures around the world which provide maximum energy and healing.
I started the my exploration with Chia Seeds and experimenting with smoothies. I find smoothies can be a great snack, or even a wonderful breakfast, when done right.

Tropical Chai Seed Smoothie

1 banana
½ cup pineapple
½ cup mango
1 cup soy milk
1 tbsp honey
lime juice
1 tbsp chai seeds

Put chai seeds into your soy milk and set aside for 20 minutes. The seeds will expand.
Cut your fruit into chunks, and place in blender. Blitz, slowly adding the soy milk until you have a smooth consistency. Add you honey and lime juice
To take this one step further, and make a healthy breakfast out of it, add 1 cup of granola to the mix.
Drink this right away as the addition of the chia seeds makes your smoothie very thick.

Chia Seeds are gluten free and the highest plant based source of omega 3, it is a high source of protein and calcium and support proper brain function. When inside your body, the seeds help you stay hydrated longer, and retain electrolytes in your bodily fluids. Easily digestible, the shells are easily broken down, even when swallowed whole. The flavor is very mild, the mild taste makes it easy to put in sauces, smoothies, breads, puddings, and whatever you want. They won’t really change the taste, but will add to your nutrition.

Chia seeds are energy enhancing, enhance stamina and endurance and very versatile. The seeds can be used to replace less-healthy fat in just about any recipe. You can use them uncooked in salad dressings, spreads, fruit shakes, ice cream, and just about anything you want. You can also add them to cookies, cakes, muffins, and other baked goods. Chai seeds will help you lose weight, for two reasons. The first reason is that they are so filling that you will eat less of other foods. The second reason is that they actually bulk up and cleanse your body of old “junk” in your intestines.

Cannellini Bean Salad

I have been craving spicy and vegetarian lately, so this was very satisfying! As much as I love meat, sometimes I just like to skip it and enjoy something meatless. I bought these dried cannellini beans in my quest to explore more healthy, organic and natural side of cooking.

Cannellini beans are low-fat, high in fiber and provide a high quality of magnesium, fiber, iron and folate. They have twice as much iron as beef. Maintaining iron stores high ensures a stable supply of hemoglobin. This carries energizing oxygen to every cell in the body. This gives you energy to spare!
They are a fine source of molybdenum. This is a trace mineral that helps the body produce detoxifying enzymes. This prevents headaches that are caused by sulfites, a compound used to preserve baked goods, wine and various things. They are also loaded with thiamine which is essential for high mental performance. Thiamine is required for a neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, which improves reaction time.
They are high in fiber help cut cholesterol. The beans fiber binds to fat to help flush it from the body. It’s also loaded with folate which helps lower levels of homocysteine, which clogs arteries.

Cannellini Bean Salad

2 cups dried cannellini beans
1 punnet white mushrooms
1 peach, diced
2 onions, roughly diced
feta
½ tsp garlic
½ tsp red chilli, diced
handful of fresh oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Cover the bean wit water and soak over night or a minimum of 5 hours.
Place beans and water in pot, and simmer over a medium heat for about 1 ½ hours, watch carefully as the water level will drop, make just the beans are always covered
Remove from heat and drain, set aside to cool.
Put a little olive oil in some kitchen papper, and rub over the base of your pan. Fry off onions with the garlic & chilli, add mushrooms. I don’t like my mushrooms overcooked, I still like the mouth feels of them slightly raw.
If you do not like a bite, you can omit the chilli.
Remove from pan, and set aside to cool.

Toss peaches, feta, oregano and fried mushrooms and onions to the cannellini beans, mix together, season and dress with your favourite dressing, I used Verlague Chili & Mango reduction.
Serve with toasted ciabatta. A great healthy easy vegetarian lunch, add some diced bacon or parma ham to make it more meaty.

The start of exploring organic and natural products…

One of the first few blogs that I started reading was Lavender & Lime, I love how Tandy uses natural, organic produce, and keeps things natural, unfortunately in the professional kitchen environments I have been in, and am currently in, this has not always been an easy task, we try where we can, however, due to costs and of “feet”, being 100% organic is simply impossible. So being inspired, I have decided to explore the world of organics, and natural products.

I have mentioned my great love for Green Tea Latte’s – I use to have my rhyme set…Green Tea Latte, Venti, extra hot, one pump… finding it really hard to obtain Matcha Powder, I have recently found Chai Tea Powder, which is just as fantastic and so healthy. However, there is this slight issue of the amount of milk one consumes when drinking 2 or three of these, Venti of course, how else?

Soya Milk is my answer. I know a lot of you are going…eeeeeewwwwwwww! And yes, I agree that soya milk is definitely an acquired taste, and not something one will order easily. I have gone one step further, and bought the soy milk powder. And started playing around with my Chai Tea Soy Latte.

With the Chai Tea Powder, and my Soya Milk Powder, I made my latte…
60ml Soya Milk Powder
310ml Water
2 tbsp Chai Tea Powder
Mix soya milk powder and water together until smooth. Heat until boiling, Using a cuppachino frother, froth your milk.
Put chai tea powder in a cup, fill halfway with the milk, and mix until all incorporated. Add rest of milk and serve.

Chai tea is Masala chai (literally “mixed-spice tea”) is a beverage from the Indian subcontinent made by brewing tea with a mixture of aromatic Indian spices and herbs. The traditional masala chai is a spiced beverage brewed with different proportions of so-called “warm” spices. The spice mixture, called Karha, uses a base of ground ginger and green cardamom pods. Chai tea has great benefits, its a wonderful antioxidant, works as a digestion aid and an anti inflammatory.

The soya milk tastes nothing like whole milk, however, the nutty undertones are delicious, and I really enjoy it. If Chai Tea is not your cup of tea, try it with hot chocolate.

Now some interesting facts about soya milk powder:

A quarter-cup serving of soy milk powder contains 95 calories. Reconstituting this powder with water does not add any calories, although if you add this powder to a recipe, such as a casserole or soup, your total caloric intake will be much greater. One serving of this milk powder adds 5 g of fat to your daily diet, and 1 g of that fat is saturated; the recommended maximum intake of saturated fat stands at 16 to 22 mg per day. An article published in the May 2011 issue of the journal “Neuroscience” indicates that eating too much saturated fat regularly can make brain injuries worse, so monitor your meal plan carefully when consuming soy milk powder if you have one of these injuries to ensure you do not get more saturated fat than advised.

One serving of soy milk powder contributes 7 g of carbohydrates to your diet. You need far more carbs than this; the quantity of carbohydrates in this milk powder satisfies very little of the 225 to 325 g your body requires each day if you follow a 2,000-calorie diet. Consider serving reconstituted soy milk powder with cereal to increase your intake of this critical macronutrient. Soy milk powder also provides you with 3 g of fiber per serving. This amount accounts for 8.8 to 13.6 percent of the fiber you should consume each day.

Consume a serving of soy milk powder, and you take in 8 g of protein. Despite deriving from a plant source, the protein in this powder is considered complete — soy beans provide all the essential amino acids you require for your bodily function. You need 50 to 175 g of protein each day. Some people suffer reactions to the protein in regular milk, making them lactose-intolerant, but soy milk is lactose-free.

Soy milk powder is a source of iron. Each serving provides 6 percent of the daily recommended intake of this mineral. While the iron in milk powder may help ward off anemia, it may also have an impact on the incidence of breast cancers. Evidence published in the April 2011 edition of “Free Radical Biology and Medicine” reveals a connection between iron deficiency and breast cancer. More studies are needed to confirm these findings. You also take in 4 percent of the calcium you need each day in a serving of soy milk powder.

The Nutrition and Benefits
(http://soymilknutritionfacts.com/the-hidden-facts-behind-a-pack-of-soy-milk-powder/)

The soy milk which is sold in powder form on the market contains particular nutrients and the amount between a brand and the other brands are not the same. The good quality soy powder (milk powder) comes with lower sugar, higher calcium than the fresh soy juice and also zero trans-fat. The content of fat (saturated fat) is very low, therefore it can be called as healthy drink to complete someone’s diet program.
In fact, some brands add the cane sugar into the powder to give sweet taste too and some people cannot stand with such thing at all. Absolutely, the soy milk powder with very low (or even zero) sugar will be healthier and helpful indeed (particularly for people with diabetes symptoms.

Anyway, some people also debate about the process of such milk powder production. They often ask about the quality of spray-dried powder. The technical matter is involved into their consideration since the process will affect the nutrition fact as well. Keep in mind that the evaporation or the concentration of soymilk prior to spray drying is commonly less than the typical cow milk.

During spray drying process, the traditional equipment is still used. However, the modern equipment is still essential to spray dry the soymilk. After that, the process is continued to the agglomeration process to allow the powder dissolved in water. The right suitable process will not reduce or decrease the content of some beneficial substances which soy milk can possibly provide, such as protein, fibre, unsaturated fat, Isoflavon, Lecitin, Vitamins (A, C, E) and also the 8 types of Amino acid.

Besides the good benefits for healthy body, soy milk powder helps women to provide good nutrition during the early period of menopause. This kind of beverage can prevent Osteoporosis, keep theheart health, supply the good nutrition for people who live with diabetes and kidney diseases, and support the eye health through its genistein content. In short, you can start to live a healthy live much better by taking such powder milk to be a part of your daily life

Now having read that, you need to keep in mind that you are cutting out certain important nutrients which you need to substitute with either vitamin tablets, or balance out with your meals for the day. Not having your recommended daily intake of nutrients will cause more harm than good.

Soya milk can be used as a substitute for many things, its a great way to add “dairy” to a kosher dish, or if you are vegan, also can be used in baking to reduce the fat content, the possibilities are endless! My next challenge, along with the few that has been set out by bloggers is to use soya milk powder in a dish.