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Beetroot and yogurt risotto

Beetroot is a vegetable I’ve only grown to love cooking with recently, most probably as I’ve previously written, my experience of it growing up was ready-cooked, sliced and in tins.

When it’s in season, beetroot features a lot in our weekly delivered fruit and vegetable box, and that’s encouraged me to try using it in different ways. I’ve blogged my most successful recipes to date: beetroot, feta and thyme muffins, pink (beetroot) pancakes and beetroot and yogurt dip. The dip is what got me thinking about making a beetroot risotto.

beetroot and yogurt risotto

Cook your beetroot in your preferred way (or buy it precooked to cook down on preparation time). I like wrapping them in one piece of foil and roasting them in the oven; there’s no need to trim or chop them. Once they’ve cooled, it’s easy to remove the skin. You can also cook them in the microwave.

Surprisingly, this risotto doesn’t taste overly of earthy beetroot and the yogurt gives it a lovely (healthier) richness and creaminess without adding the usual extra butter and parmesan at the end. Kids (and adults) will love the colour and Nicholas happily ate it. I used red wine to add to the colour and liked the extra depth of flavour it gave, but white wine would work just as well.

BEETROOT AND YOGURT RISOTTO

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 20-25 mins
Serves 4 adults

400g cooked and peeled beetroot
1 tbsp olive oil
15g butter
1 onion, finely diced
350g risotto rice (I used Carnaroli)
250ml red wine
1 litre hot vegetable (or chicken) stock
150g Greek yogurt

Roughly chop the beetroot, put the pieces in a small food processor and blend until smooth.

Heat the oil and butter in a medium-sized pot over a medium-low heat. Add the onion and gently fry until softened.

Add the rice and quickly stir it so all the grains are coated. Add the wine and stir until it’s absorbed.

Start adding the stock a ladle at a time, letting it absorb then adding more. Keep doing this until the rice is ready (cooked but still with a little bite, about 15-20 minutes, and still moist). Remove from the heat.

Gently stir through the beetroot then the yogurt. Check for seasoning.

Tip: keep a small piece of beetroot aside and finely dice it to sprinkle over the top before serving.

What are you favourite ways of cooking with beetroot?

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Yogurt Week: Beetroot and Yogurt Dip

This is a super easy, super quick and healthy dip, celebrating the versatility of yogurt.

My often fussy little eater kept wanting to taste this as we made it. The wonderfully vibrant colour appeals to little eyes, just be careful of beetroot stains! If serving this to a little eater, give them a variety of foods in different colours to dip in. You can also use it as a spread in sandwiches or wraps.

You still have plenty of time to celebrate Yogurt Week as well as enter the exciting Food Stylist competition (details in my last post). Did you know there is enough plain yogurt sold in the UK every year to make at least 616 million kormas?!

Yogurt Week

BEETROOT AND YOGURT DIP

Prep time: 5-10 mins
Cook time: 0 minutes!
Makes 4 servings

250g cooked beetroot, peeled and chopped into chunks
70g Greek yogurt
A pinch of cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

Put everything into a mini food processor and blitz until smooth. Taste and add more seasoning and cumin if needed.

Other uses:

  • use as a pasta sauce by stirring through hot cooked pasta
  • serve over rice
  • use as a crepe filling

Yogurt Week 2014Disclosure: I was compensated by The Yogurt Council to promote Yogurt Week.

Yogurt Week: Italian-inspired yogurt cake

Today is the first day of Yogurt Week, the UK’s first celebration of that wonderfully versatile dairy product and everything you can make with it.

Yogurt Week 2014What can’t you do with yogurt? Eat it on its own or add it to both sweet or savoury dishes, it’s a great way to add some creamy lusciousness without adding too many calories. It’s also a perfect first food for weaning babies.

With its power-boosting protein and bone-building calcium as well as a load of vitamins, it’s no wonder that in the UK we spent over £1.2 billion on yogurt in the last year (that’s £38 every second of every day!).

To celebrate yogurt, The Yogurt Council is running a Food Stylist Competition for those of you in the UK, with a £1,000 prize package up for grabs. All you need to do is create and style your own recipe using yogurt. The competition runs until Monday 9 June 2014 and more details can be found here.

Discover more about yogurt, and lots of yummy recipes using it, on the Yogurt Council’s website and follow @loveyogurtuk on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Yogurt Week

Yogurt Week has been the perfect excuse for me to experiment with making something I often ate while living in Italy and have been wanting to try to make for a while.

‘Plumcake allo yogurt’ is eaten for breakfast and also as a snack for little ones. I have no idea why it’s called ‘plumcake’, especially when it has no plums (or anything resembling plums) in it! Aside from the misuse of English, this Italian yogurt cake is lovely and light, and yummy both for breakfast or afternoon tea. If you make it with low or no fat yogurt, you can have absolutely no guilt eating it for breakfast (remind yourself of the protein and calcium you’re treating your body to).

It’s an amazingly quick and easy cake to make, it’s really just beating the ingredients together, and doesn’t leave you with many dirty things to wash. It also freezes very well.

In making my Italian-inspired cake, I’ve only used ingredients that are common here in the UK. I also added some lemon zest as I like the tangy freshness it gives to the cake. (When brutally honest Italian hubby tried it, he quickly pointed out that plumcake doesn’t have lemon!) It’s just as yummy with or without the lemon; why not try both versions and tell me your favourite.

ITALIAN-INSPIRED YOGURT CAKE

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 40-45 mins
Makes 1 loaf
Freezable

250g Greek yogurt
100ml light-flavoured vegetable oil (I use rapeseed oil)
zest of 1 lemon (optional)
3 eggs
140g caster sugar
200g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 175C. Line a loaf tin with baking paper.

Put the yogurt, oil and lemon zest (if using) into a medium-sized mixing bowl.

Beat the eggs until they’re light and fluffy (a hand whisk is fine), then beat them into the yogurt mixture.

Add the sugar, flour, baking powder and salt, and lightly beat until combined.

Pour the mixture into your prepared loaf tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

Tip: if the top of your cake is browning too much in the oven but it’s not cooked, cover the top with a piece of aluminium foil to protect it.

By the way, can you guess what the most popular yogurt flavour is in the UK?

Disclosure: I was compensated by The Yogurt Council to develop a recipe using yogurt and promote Yogurt Week.

 

Sugar-free goji berry pancakes

nu3, the European nutrition experts, have just launched in the UK. Their online store has a huge range of products, including products that are exclusive to them, all to help us lead healthier lives. You can also get advice from their team of health specialists.

The company started only 5 years ago in Germany and have very quickly grown. Now we can also enjoy their huge range of health products.

As part of their UK launch, nu3 challenged me to come up with a recipe using their goji berries. Goji berries, also known as wolfberries, grow in China and are used in traditional Chinese medicine. They’re considered a superfood by many because they’re high in nutrients and antioxidents.

nu3 not only sell the dried berries, but also goji juice, goji capsules and chocolate covered goji berries. You can eat the dried goji berries simply as they are or easily pop them into smoothies or muesli and also even scatter them over salad. I experimented with adding them to cooking and I came up with some yummy pancakes.

nu3My regular readers will know I’m a big fan of fluffy pancakes so I used self-raising flour to make these pancakes lovely and light. To complement the healthy goji berries I used mainly wholemeal self-raising flour, and sweetened them with honey and very ripe banana rather than sugar (the riper the banana the better as it will be sweeter).

I felt very healthy eating them and figured I was allowed an extra drizzle of golden syrup over the top because of all the healthy ingredients inside! And Nicholas loved them too.

SUGAR-FREE GOJI BERRY PANCAKES

Prep time: 5-10 mins (plus overnight soaking time for the goji berries)
Cook time: 10-15 mins
Makes about 10 pancakes
Freezable

50g goji berries, covered in water and soaked overnight
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour (I used 1 cup of wholemeal and 1/2 cup of white self-raising flour)
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp honey
1 egg, beaten
1 very ripe banana, mashed
1 cup milk
Small piece of butter, melted, to grease the pan

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cinnamon into a medium- sized bowl.

Add the honey, egg and mashed banana then gradually pour in the milk mixing until you have a fairly thick batter (you might not need to use all the milk).

Drain the goji berries and gently mix them through the batter.

Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat and brush with melted butter. Use a tablespoon to drop spoonfuls of mixture into the pan. Cook in batches, turning when bubbles appear on the surface (1-2 mins). Cook the other side until golden brown (about 1 min). Lift out and cover with a clean tea towel to keep warm.

Variations:

  • Use nutmeg or ginger instead of cinnamon
  • Add vanilla essence for more sweetness

Tip: Wipe your pan clean with a piece of paper towel after each batch and then brush with some more melted butter.

Sugar-free peanut and date bites

While I’m not a vegan (and never could be), I like following people who are on Instagram for healthy food inspiration, especially trying to come up with different healthier snacks for Nicholas. One of my favourite vegan Instagrammers is the lovely Two Minute Vegan (@twominutevegan).

A few weeks back she came up with a great idea for a two-ingredient healthy snack bar using just dates and peanuts. I just had to try it!

veganBlending up the dates into a sticky purée produces a wonderfully sweet caramel-like flavour in the finished bites and a seemingly naughty chewy texture. They really do taste like a sugary treat rather than a healthy snack.

The original recipe has a layer of peanuts on the bottom as well as on the top which works well if you’re cutting them into bars, but I just put peanuts on top. Even after cooking they’re quite squidgy, so it’s better to cut them into smaller pieces to avoid a sticky mess particularly with little ones.

Because of their squidgy soft texture, I think this recipe would also be great as pop-in-the-mouth balls, rolled in crushed peanuts before baking.

You really must try making these addictive bites!

SUGAR-FREE PEANUT AND DATE BITES

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 10 mins plus 30 mins in the fridge to harden
Makes 16 squares
Keeps in the fridge for a couple of days

1 1/2 cups unsalted peanuts
1 1/2 cups dates, roughly chopped

Heat your oven to 175C and line a square baking tin (mine is 20cm x 20cm) with baking paper.

Put 1 cup of the peanuts in a food processor and grind until they’re fairly evenly broken up into small pieces.

Add the chopped dates and blend while pouring in two tablespoons of water. Keep adding a little water until you have a thick paste (similar in consistency to a thick peanut butter).

Spread the date and peanut mixture into your prepared tin using the back of a spoon (wet it if the mixture keeps sticking to it). Sprinkle over the remaining 1/2 cup of peanuts and press them in.

Bake for 10 minutes.

Put the bites, still in the tin, in the fridge to harden (at least half an hour) then cut into squares.

vegan

Parsnip Soup

While my friends and family in Australia are trying to cope with heat rising above 40C, we’re snuggling together under blankets to keep warm.

We’re also trying to be healthier after the usual Christmas/New Year over-indulging, and soup continues to be an easy way to get Nicholas to eat a variety of vegetables (even if sometimes he HAS to drink it through a straw!).

Parsnip SoupPARSNIP SOUP

Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 15-20 mins
Makes 4 adult servings

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
500g parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 tsp garam masala
1 litre hot vegetable or chicken stock
Salt and pepper
Handful fresh parsley, roughly chopped (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, parsnips and carrots cook for about 4 minutes until the vegetables are starting to soften.

Add the garam masala and a little salt and pepper, and cook for another minute.

Add the stock, bring to the boil then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes until the parsnips and carrots are soft.

Take off the heat, toss in the parsley and purée until smooth (either in a food processor or using a hand blender). Check if you need to add any seasoning.

If the soup is too thick after puréeing, stir through some milk (or coconut milk).

Variations:

  • For a curried parsnip soup, replace the garam masala with curry powder
  • Add some grated ginger with the garlic for a little more zing

What dishes to you and your family eat to feel warm?

Kale Crisps

I’ve wanted to try making kale crisps for a while as they’ve intrigued me. When a large bunch of kale popped into my weekly delivered veg box, it was time to try them.

I think for a lot of people kale crisps don’t sound particularly appetising. And the first taste is a little odd, but… then I couldn’t stop eating them! Hubby was rather dubious, but… then he couldn’t stop eating them! And Nicholas tucked into them too!

Vegetable crisps

Such a brilliant way to get some more green veg into your and your little ones’ diets, and kale is considered to be one of the healthiest vegetables around. Kale crisps are also super easy to make.

Some recipes suggest putting the torn up leaves into a bag with the olive oil and salt, and either shaking or massaging to cover the leaves. I tried this the first time I made them, but found the salt didn’t spread very well meaning I ended up with some VERY salty crisps and some without any salt. If you’re not using salt at all, the bag method works well to limit the amount of oil, but otherwise I would just drizzle the oil and sprinkle over the salt once the kale is on the oven trays. Be careful about adding too much salt as they can very easily become too salty (you can always add more salt after they’ve cooked).

KALE CRISPS

Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 5-10 mins

1 bunch of kale, washed and patted dry
Approx. 1 tbsp olive oil
Salt (optional)

Preheat your oven to 170C and line two oven trays with baking paper.

Tear the leaves off the thick stalks and chop or tear into pieces about 5-7cm in size.

Spread the torn leaves in a single layer over the oven trays.

Lightly drizzle the leaves with olive oil and very lightly sprinkle with salt (if using).

Bake for 5-10 minutes, keeping a close eye on them, until the edges have just started to go brown.

Variations:

  • for kale crisps with a kick, sprinkle with chili powder before baking;
  • for zesty crisps, as soon as you take the crisps from the oven, grated over some lemon zest;
  • for cheesy crisps, sprinkle over some grated parmesan before baking;
  • sprinkle over some sesame seeds after baking.

Tip: if your kale browns too quickly, try baking them at 150C for 20-25 minutes.