27 July, 2011

Pasta free spinach and ricotta cannelloni

On Monday night, I desperately fancied spinach and ricotta cannelloni, but with my current slimming efforts, having both pasta, ricotta cheese and bechamel sauce in one meal was out of the question. I couldn't quite let the idea go though, and I came to think of how raw foodists use julienned zucchini to replace spaghetti, which inspired me to take the same approach to my cannelloni craving (only with every intention of heating it to above 42 degrees!). It was a bit of an experiment, but it worked really well, and I would definitely make it again. I will never love it as much as I love the real deal, but you know, needs must!

The below recipe is what I made for one, and I had a little left over. I doubt it could have served two though.

Spinach and ricotta zucchini cannelloni:

Serves 1

1 small onion
2 cloves of garlic
1 tin of chopped tomatoes (400 grams)

1 tsp butter
1 tsp plain flour
150 ml milk

1 zucchini
150 grams frozen, chopped spinach, defrosted
100 grams ricotta cheese
Salt and pepper

First, make your favourite tomato sauce (or crack open the jar, if your favourite comes in one of those). I sautéed a finely chopped onion and a couple of cloves of garlic, poured over a tin of chopped tomatoes, seasoned with salt and pepper, added some fresh basil and left it to simmer while I got on with the rest of it.

Next, prepare a bechamel sauce. Seeing as I was only making enough for myself, I used just a teaspoonful of butter, the same amount of plain flour, and 150 millilitres of milk. Regardless of the quantities you are using, make a roux by melting the butter and stirring in the flour, then add the milk gradually and bring to a boil, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

T0 make the cannelloni, wash the zucchini and trim the ends off. Now cut it into thin slices lengthwise. I found this tricky and actually mauled an entire zucchini trying to make it work (thankfully I had bought two). I tried using a carrot peeler, but it wasn't wide enough. I ended up using my mandoline, which made slices that were far too thick, and then carefully slicing those in half.

In a bowl, mix spinach and ricotta, and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Now lay out three or four zucchini slices next to each other on a cutting board, overlapping slightly by about half a centimetre. Place a couple of spoonfuls of the spinach and ricotta filling in a line across all the zucchini slices, close to the end nearest you, and roll up the zucchni slices into a little tube around the filling.

Spread out some of the tomato sauce over the bottom of an oven proof dish. Arrange the zucchini tubes next to each other on top of the tomato sauce, top with the remaining tomato sauce, the bechamel sauce, and perhaps a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. Bake at 200 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until the bechamel sauce is golden and the zucchini tubes are soft.

I had this as is, but had I been less impatient, or maybe serving it to company, a simple salad with rocket leaves and roasted red peppers, and maybe a nice glass of red wine, would have suited this dish well.

23 July, 2011

Banana whipped oat porridge

For three or four weeks now, I've been slimming down for summer, as they say. Not that it looks like summer is planning on coming to Denmark any time soon, but I'm going to Barcelona in August, and surely it will be summer there! After a full two months of revising and exams, during which I had eaten literally nothing but s#!t, some serious effort was necessary to get me bikini-ready, so now I'm doing what I always do when things need to happen quick  - I'm counting calories!

I often find that counting calories is somewhat frowned upon, but frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn! Counting calories works for me, it has done before and it will do again this time, and what's more, I can see results quite fast, which is really the only thing that can convince me to keep going. Obviously I hope feel completely certain that this will be the time I don't gain the weight again, but we'll see.

Either way, as of now, I'm counting calories, and a few people inspired by the few kilos I have lost so far, asked me to share some of my favourite low calorie meals here. So I will, starting with what I've been eating for breakfast for the past couple of grey, rainy mornings: Oat porridge with banana and skyr (or fromage frais), topped with almonds and dessicated coconut. Oats for fibre, banana for sweetness, skyr for protein, healthy fats from almonds, and dessicated coconut for... well, I don't know if it's good for anything, but it sure does taste good! If anyone knows that it is good for something, do fill me in :) All together, it makes for a warm, comforting breakfast, which keeps me full until lunchtime.

Banana whipped oat porridge for one:

30 grams rolled oats
30 grams banana, thinly sliced
Just under 2 decilitres of water (1,8 decilitres, maybe?)
50 grams skyr (Or fromage frais of low fat Greek yoghurt)
10 almonds, roughly chopped
5 grams dessicated coconut

Add the oats, banana and water to a saucepan, crank it up to the max and bring to a boil, stirring continuously. As it starts to boil it will thicken, and as you stir vigorously, the bananas will disintegrate and become one with the oats, leaving no lumps but only the lovely sweetness of bananas. When your porridge has boiled for a minute or two, and the porridge has thickened, remove from the heat and pour into a bowl. Now, stir in the Skyr and top with chopped almonds and coconut. For extra luxury, add a sprinkling a cinnamon. Enjoy!

If you can't be bothered with the saucepan, I find it works just as well to add the oats, banana and water to a microwavable bowl and zapping it for 2 minutes on max, followed by a quick stir, but I do enjoy the old school method.

This portion is 250 calories.

14 July, 2011

Macaroni cheese

An American classic, which I have eaten from a tin when I was in England, but which tastes a gazillion times better when it's home made. It's not healthy by anyone's standards, but it's good old fashioned comfort food, perfect for a rainy day, which seems to be all Denmark has to offer at the moment. Using cheddar is textbook, but I prefer a combination of gouda and parmesan. My boyfriend prefers it topped with breadcrumbs, I prefer slices of tomato - so we do both!

Macaroni cheese:

Enough for four people, or maybe two if you're pigging out!

1 large tbsp butter
1 large tbsp plain flour
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tp paprika
500 ml milk
100 grams grated gouda cheese
50 grams grated parmesan cheese
250 grams pasta (I suppose you should use macaroni, but my shop doesn't have it)
Salt and pepper
Bread crumbs or tomato, optional

Heat your oven to 200 degrees. Boil the pasta, preferably for a few minutes less than suggested on the packet.

While the pasta is cooking, make the cheese sauce. First, make a roux by melting the butter and stirring in first the cayenne pepper and paprika, then the flour. Cook for a minute or so, then gradually add the milk while whisking constantly. When all the milk has been added and the sauce has thickened, add the cheeses and season with salt and pepper.

Combine the cheese sauce and cooked pasta in an oven proof dish. For a crunchy topping, top it with a thin layer of bread crumbs and perhaps a few knobs of butter. Alternatively, top it with slices of tomato. Cook in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbling and your topping is starting to brown.

I had it with a breaded Quorn fillet and roasted asparagus, and you can bet your last Mcnugget it was delicous!

04 July, 2011

Kidney bean patties

These patties are really versatile, and could probably be served in any way you could imagine. As a perfect light summer meal with a filling salad, on a cold autumn day with potatoes, gravy and boiled vegetables, stuff into a pita bread with crunchy vegetables and a dressing - the possibilities are endless! I made them sort of meat ball sized, but if made slightly bigger, they would be great in a veggie burger as well. The taste great cold for lunch the next day too!

Kidney beans patties:

1 tin of kidney beans, drained and rinsed (230 grams drained)
1 egg

1 onion
3-4 tbsp breadcrumbs
2-3 tbsp finely chopped almonds
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh herbs (I used thyme)

Place the kidney beans in a food processor and process until the beans are roughly chopped. Place the chopped beans in a bowl and add the remaining ingredients to make a dough. Leave the dough to rest for about 30 minutes, then shape the dough into patties. I used about a tablespoonful of dough for each patty. 

To bake the patties in the oven, place them on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake at 200 degrees for 20 minutes, turning after 10.  Alternatively, you could fry them in a bit of oil, in which case they would probably look much prettier and golden than mine did. However, they taste great baked in the oven, and you get 20 minutes to finish whatever you fancy eating with them.