Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sweet Like A Lemon

For me, there is nothing more exciting than a challenge, especially a sweet one.

So far on my diet, desserts and puddings have proven to be the biggest challenge - as I have mentioned before, I do not have much of a sweet tooth, but the excitement of the challenge is getting to me and some days I race home, my head filled with brilliant ideas, that I just KNOW will work, (ok, some turn out to be huge flops) but when I think they work, I need to have lots of guinea pigs to try them out on - so I "use" the people at work :)

This is one such experiment that got the thumbs up:

Mock Lemon Cheese Cake:
(Makes 4 Mini "Cheese" Cakes)

People are strange, the minute they find out that this contains tofu, they are not so keen. So here's a tip - just tell them it's cheese cake and they will be none the wiser :)


For the Base:

1 Cup Almonds
Half Cup Buckwheat
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1.5 Teaspoons Vanilla Essence/ Extract
2 Tablespoons Xylitol
3 Tablespoons Water

For the "Cheese":

300g Soft Tofu
1 Lemon Juiced and Zested
2 Tablespoons Xylitol
2 Leaves of Gelatin, Dissolved in a Little Water
1.5 Teaspoons Vanilla Essence/ Extract
2 Teaspoons Ground Nutmeg


Heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius
Put all dry base ingredients into a blender and whizz until fine crumbs have formed
Make a syrup from the sugar and water, in the microwave
Add the syrup and the vanilla to the crumb mixture and stir to combine
Spoon equal amounts into the bottom of 4 muffin tins, patting flat to compact the mixture
Cook in the oven for 10 minutes, until the base mixture sticks together
Mix together tofu, lemon juice and zest, xylitol, vanilla and nutmeg (in a blender if you prefer)
Add the gelatin mixture to the "cheese" mixture being careful of lumps - mix well
Spread the mixture onto each base
Place the muffin tray in the fridge and chill for 4 hours until set

See? Looks just like cheese cake hey? No one will have a clue :)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Dessert for Mother's Day

This Mother's Day was a very special occasion in my life. Dre's parents met my Mom and her partner for the first time... Dre's parents had already met my Dad and Step Mom last year; what made it so much easier was that they met without us being there... So, I didn't have to worry about a thing :) (My Dad and Step Mom own a guest house in Plettenberg Bay, called Laird's Lodge, which Dre's parents went to stay at for a few days). My brain is getting tied just explaining the intricacies of my family dynamics - I have a huge extended family, which I love to bits!

Getting back to this Mother's Day... I wanted it to be special for the mothers as well as hoping it would be a memorable occasion for all of us.

I set the table with care, placing individual Woolies cupcake choccies at each place setting, scattering some pink flowers across the table and making use of lovely serviettes, pink of course :)

I not only had to set the mood however, the dinner needed to end with a fantastic dessert. I was cooking in my usual allergy free way, which meant that the dessert would be tricky...

I had an epiphany late friday afternoon and filled with excitement, I suddenly knew what I was going to make.

Baked Apricots with an Almond Crust:
(Serves 8)

4 Tins Halved Apricots (tinned apricots strictly speaking, contain yeast, therefore this dessert would be better with fresh apricots, but I couldn't find any)
2 Cups Almonds, Ground into Crumbs
4 Slices Rice Bread, Made into Crumbs (This can be left out)
2 - 4 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
2- 4 Tablespoons Ground Cinnamon
Soya Cream for Serving


Heat oven to 180 Degrees Celsius
Mix the ground almonds, bread crumbs, sugar and cinnamon together
Put the apricots into an oven proof dish, or individual ramekins
Top with some of the apricot juice, about half to a full can, to keep the dish moist while cooking
Sprinkle the almond mixture over the top
Bake in the oven for 20 - 30 minutes until a golden crust has formed over the top, be careful of burning
Serve with a dollop of soya cream

The dessert is simple, but it was just right to end off the evening. I am happy to report that an enjoyable evening was had by all and the meeting of the families was a huge success :)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pasta On My Night Off

On the rare occasions that Dre offers to cook, I jump at the opportunity. I really do love cooking, but sometimes there's nothing nicer than having the night off.

Dre can cook very well, but he doesn't do it often as I think he gets intimidated... I am a whirlwind in the kitchen; usually busy with 3 meals at a time (my breakfast and lunch for the next day, plus dinner). Who wouldn't be a little scared of that?

Anyway, I digress... Last night was one of the occasions that Dre offered to cook and guess what he felt like? Yip, you guessed it - more pasta - ha ha :) I wasn't about to complain though...

He saw a picture of a tomato, bacon and mushroom pasta on a website and suddenly felt like that. (Dre is very easy going when it comes to food - he eats to live, whereas I live to eat - therefore when he gets excited about food, I do my best to encourage him, as it's fantastic when your partner shares your passion!)

So he asked me how he could make this dish for me, taking my allergies into account.

I quickly rattled off a recipe in an e-mail to him, which gave him a good chuckle (I think writing recipes is now so second nature to me, I don't even realise it)

This is my recipe, which Dre cooked and oh my word, I can't explain to you how good it was, I just wanted to carry on eating it!

Thanks for a lovely dinner last night Dre :)

Bacon, Tomato and Mushroom Pasta:
(Serves 2)

Please remember that mushrooms contain yeast (I picked them out of my bowl :))


1 Onion, Diced
4 Large Tomatoes, Skins Removed in Boiling Water and Roughly Chopped
3/4 Packet of Bacon (Rind and Fat Removed)
Tip: Dre bought the smokey bacon from Woolies, which complimented the tomato beautifully
Half a Punnet Mushrooms, Sliced
A Handful of Thai Basil/ Normal Basil, Roughly Torn
Salt and Pepper to Taste
2 Teaspoons of Xylitol/ Sugar
1 - 1.5 Cups Puccini Fusilli Maize Pasta (bought at Dischem)


Fry onion and bacon until the onion is soft and the bacon is cooked – don’t use too much oil here as bacon has its own fat
Add the mushrooms and fry for a further few minutes
Add the chopped tomatoes to the mixture in the pot
Season with salt and pepper and add the sugar to counterbalance the sharpness of the tomatoes
(Dre's comment was that the sweetness goes so well with the bacon)
Add a little water to create a saucy consistency
Simmer for about 10 – 15 minutes until the flavours have infused and a nice sauce has been created
Add a few torn thai basil leaves to the sauce (this was a brilliant touch by Dre, the thai basil added a subtle flavour, which perfectly finished off the sauce)
Cook the pasta as directed and serve :)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Pasta, Pasta, Pasta

I am sensing a trend with myself; it seems that I am now on a roll with pasta dishes. Here is another vegetarian pasta, which could also be layered between lasagne sheets.

Baked Pasta with Spinach and Pine Nuts:
(Serves 4 - 6)


2 Large Leeks, Sliced
2 Peppers (I used Green), Diced
1 Packet Baby Spinach
Dried Chilli Flakes
Salt and Pepper
Drizzle of Healthy Oil (I used Peanut)

White Sauce:

1/3 Cup Corn Starch
2 Cups Soya Milk/ Rice Milk
Salt and Pepper
Grated Nutmeg

1/2 Packet of Pasta (I used Puccini Fusilli Maize Pasta that I bought from Dischem)


Heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius
Fry the leeks, with a sprinkle of salt, until tender
Add the peppers and fry for a few minutes
Add the spinach, chilli flakes, salt and pepper and fry until spinach has wilted. Set mixture aside.
Make a white sauce with the corn starch and milk - heat until thickened (you may need a little less or more milk until you have reached the desired consistency)
Add salt, pepper and nutmeg to the sauce, to taste
Pour spinach mixture into the white sauce and stir to combine
Cook pasta until a little under al dente
Place pasta and spinach and white sauce mixture into a baking dish
Bake for about 15 minutes, until a crust has formed on the top of the pasta
Sprinkle with pine nuts

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Just Like (Italian) Mama Used to Make?

I have never made a vegetarian lasagne, but I liked the idea of creating a rustic layered, almost open sort of lasagne where the filling tumbles out in organised chaos. With lovely complimentary flavours of butternut, baby tomato, sage and an aromatic white sauce, how could I go wrong?

This casual, yet gloriously comforting lasagne was meant to serve 4, but Dre and I gobbled it up within seconds... I always say that if Dre eats my food with gusto and goes back for seconds, it is a winner. He is a good guinea pig though and tries everything I put in front of him, but some meals he is less enthusiastic about. Not this one though! What made it even more surprising was the fact that there was no meat in sight - high praise indeed!

Butternut, Sage and Baby Tomato Lasagne:
(Serves 4)



1 Butternut, Cut into Chunks (I left the skin on)
1 Punnet Baby Tomatoes
A Few Sage Leaves
A Drizzle of Macadamia Nut Oil
Herbal Salt

White Sauce:

1/3 Cup Corn Starch
80mls Macadamia Nut Oil
2 Cups Soya Milk
Salt and Pepper

3/4 packet Rice and Corn Lasagne Sheets (I bought mine from Fruits and Roots)


Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius
Drizzle macadamia nut oil, paprika and herbal salt over butternut pieces and roast in the oven for 40 minutes until golden
Make the white sauce by combining corn starch and macadamia nut oil to form a paste. Add milk a little at a time until a saucy consistency has been reached (the macadamia nut oil gives the sauce a lovely nutty flavour, which works beautifully with the butternut and sage)
Add grated nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste
Cook lasagne sheets for 10 minutes until just under al dente
Layer butternut, tomatoes, sage, pasta sheets and white sauce (don't forget to end off with the white sauce)
Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, which will give baby tomatoes enough time to cook and go delicious, for all flavours to combine and for the top to go golden

Mmm... can you smell the sage wafting around the kitchen?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Traditional Lasagne with a Twist

Just saying the word lasagne makes my mouth water. Whoever created this dish was a genius, in my opinion!

According to Wikipedia, the Italians used the word to refer to the dish in which lasagne was made. Another theory suggests that lasagne might come from Greek λάγανον (laganon), a flat sheet of pasta dough cut into strips.

Quite frankly, I don't care where the word came from as long as I still get to eat it, and guess what? I do - Yippee :)

I made this lasagne for three of my girlfriends a few weeks ago and wow, was I shocked to see them devour my gluten free, dairy free, egg free, yeast free version with gusto - and even go back for seconds! I was really happy :) This lasagne officially has the friendship seal of approval.

Meat Lasagne (Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Egg Free, Yeast Free)
(Serves 4 Generously)


Meat Filling:

1 Onion, Diced
500g Good Quality Beef Mince (I use Organic Mince from Woolies)
Half Large Red Pepper, Diced
Half Large Green Pepper, Diced
3 Carrots, Grated
A Few Glugs Vital Soya Sauce
Bunch Thyme
1 400g Tin Tomatoes
1 65g Tin Tomato Paste
2 Teaspoons Xylitol
2 Teaspoons Dried Chilli
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Olive Oil for Cooking

White Sauce:

80mls Olive Oil
80mls (1/3 cup) Corn Starch
2 Cups Soya Milk
Nutmeg to Taste
Salt and Pepper to Taste

3/4 packet Rice and Corn Lasagne Sheets (I bought mine from Fruits and Roots)


Fry onion in a drop of olive oil with a sprinkle of salt until translucent
Add mince meat a little at a time and brown
Add soya sauce, salt and pepper, and thyme and fry for a few more minutes
Add peppers and carrots and fry again
Add tin of tomatoes and tomato paste
Add xylitol and chilli flakes
Add some water to create a nice sauce (about half a 400g tin or more if desired)
Allow to simmer so that flavours can infuse
To create the white sauce add the oil to a pot and add the corn starch, stirring to create a paste
Add the soya milk a little at a time, stirring to prevent lumps, until the desired consistency has been reached (you may need to add a little more or less, depending)
Grate some nutmeg into the white sauce
Add some salt and pepper
Cook the pasta sheets until just under al dente
Layer the meat, white sauce and lasagne sheets in an oven dish until all components have been used up, but make sure you end off with white sauce
Cook in the oven for about 20 minutes, the white sauce should go nice and golden

Monday, May 10, 2010

Piece de Resistance

I wanted to push my own boundaries and think totally out of my own box with this last and rather scrumptious soup.

There is texture here, in the form of ground almonds. There is creaminess here, in the form of coconut cream. There is zing here, in the form of lemon juice.

This is my version of a quick fish soup. The final soup in this series needed to have some pizzazz and I think I have created it in this soup - I hope you enjoy!

Eclectic Fish Soup:

(Serves 2 - 3)


4 Hake Fillets (I used frozen)
1 400g Tin Coconut Cream
800g Water (2 tins full)
3/4 Cup Ground Almonds (I bought unsalted almonds and ground my own)
1 Packet Broccoli Florets
1 Cup Chopped Chives
1 Cake Vermicelli Rice Noodles
Juice and Zest of 1 Lemon
1 Teaspoon Fish Sauce
A Few Lime Leaves
Salt and Pepper to Taste
1 Teaspoon Xylitol/ Sugar to Taste


Place coconut cream, ground almonds and water in a large pot and bring to the boil
Add fish sauce, lime leaves, salt, pepper, hake fillets and rice noodles and simmer for about 10 - 15 minutes
Add juice and zest of lemon, chives, broccoli, xylitol and simmer until broccoli is just done ( 5 - 10 minutes)
Taste - you may need to add some more salt and pepper or xylitol (to make sure the balance between sweet, salty, sour and peppery is right)
Serve piping hot with a sprinkling of chives

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

And Now For My Next Trick...

With this weather being so unpredictable - cold, wet and all around miserable - I have been wanting something comforting... a nice bowl of something hot that I can wrap my hands around, to warm me up from the inside and out.

And what better than Moroccan flavours, which seem to be so in right now? This soup has become one of my fast favourites, each mouthful is infused with tangy, sweet, smokey, spicy... I was in Heaven from the very first spoonful and I'm sure you will be too!

Sweet and Sour Moroccan Beef and Chickpea Soup:
(Serves 4)

As comforting as an old pair of pajamas that mold to your body, but contradictory in its fashionability and delectable in taste.


500g Beef Steak Cubes
3 Teaspoons Paprika
3 Teaspoons Cumin
3 Teaspoons Cinnamon
3 Teaspoons Turmeric
2 Teaspoons Dried Chilli (or 1 if you prefer less of a kick)
8 Large Tomatoes, Sliced in Half
2 Large Red Peppers, Deseeded and Quartered
2 Granny Smith Apples, Sliced in Half, Pips Removed
1 Large Onion, Diced
1 Tin Chickpeas (in Brine), Drained
1 Cup Fresh Mint, Roughly Torn
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
1-2 Teaspoons Xylitol

Roasted Chickpeas:

1 Tin Chickpeas (in Brine), Drained
1 Teaspoon Paprika
1 Teaspoon Cumin
1 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1 Teaspoon Turmeric
Salt and Pepper
1-2 Teaspoons Olive Oil


Marinade Beef Cubes in Paprika, Cumin, Cinnamon, Turmeric, Dried Chilli and a drop of Olive Oil until you are ready to cook (about 15 minutes)

Place the Tomatoes, Peppers and Apples on a Baking Tray with a drizzle of olive oil and roast in the oven until the skins are black and blistering and the flesh is tender (20-30 minutes)
Fry the Onion in a drop of olive oil, with a sprinkle of salt to prevent it from burning
Add the beef, a little at a time - to prevent liquid from forming, and fry until browned
De-skin the roasted peppers, tomatoes and apples, being careful because they are hot!
Chop the flesh and add it to the pot
Add about half a cup of water to the ingredients in the pot to form a soup-like consistency
Bring to the boil
Marinade 1 Tin of Chickpeas in the Roasted Chickpeas Ingredients and put into the oven to roast until crisp (about 30 minutes - be careful not to burn)
Add the other tin of chickpeas to the soup, along with the cup of fresh mint
Add Salt, Pepper and Xylitol to taste
You may want to add some more spices to enhance the flavour

Simmer for about 20 minutes (or until the chickpeas are cooked and the flavours of the soup have enhanced and amalgamated)
Top the soup with the roasted chickpeas
And enjoy all the comforting, wintery flavours

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

And Just When You Thought I Had Turned Vegetarian...

... I come bearing a masterpiece of a soup.

The flavours in this soup compliment each other remarkably - what more could you want creamy, salty and the subtle taste of anaseed... deeeeelish!

Fennel, Butter Bean and Bacon Soup:
(Serves 2 - 4)


1 Onion, Finely Diced
2 Stalks of Celery, Sliced
3 Carrots, Sliced
1 Fennel Bulb, Roughly Sliced 
250g Back Bacon, Rind and Fat Removed, Diced
400g Tin of Butter Beans
Olive Oil
Herbal Salt
Black Pepper
800mls Water
A Squeeze of Lemon Juice


Heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius
Drizzled a little olive oil over the fennel slices and sprinkle with herbal salt and black pepper
Roast the fennel for 15 - 20 minutes until tender and slightly charred, to give the soup a different dimension
Fry the onion, celery and carrot in a drizzle of olive oil with a sprinkle of salt for about 5 - 10 minutes, while you are dicing the bacon
Add the bacon and fry for a further 5 minutes
Add the water
Chop the roasted fennel more finely, being careful because it is hot, and add to the pot
Add salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon (to taste)
Add the butter beans
Simmer for 20 minutes to allow flavours to intensity and amalgamate
Blend half of the soup and combine with the remaining soup to create a creamy texture
Chop a few fennel stalks and leaves and add to the soup 
Serve while piping hot and devour quickly so that you can have seconds before anyone else can! :)