A classic dish made healthier

In the last throes of summer there are still aubergines about and plenty of beans to try this oil free version of ratatouille.

That’s right I did say oil free.

Many a pan has been overheated with great gulps of olive oil added to fry off the aubergine – ending in a rich and I won’t say not-delicious stew.

But we’re not going to do that to ourselves or our pans and I personally like this lighter version.

SAM_1939 (Small)This ‘tui’ is my template for a quick summer dish. Serve over your favourite grain, new season potatoes, or polenta.

Like Nigella I do not salt my aubergine and can’t tell the difference – there the similarity ends!

Serve with a walnut Parmesan to take this simple dish to the next level and check out the many variations below.

1 large onion, finely sliced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 bay leaves
Handful of basil leaves
1 cup vegetable stock/water
2 sticks celery, cut 1/2 inch pieces
2 cups beans, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 large aubergine, quartered lengthways and sliced
2 red peppers, deseeded and cut into strips
2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes or 1 large can
1/2 tsp sea salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbl lemon juice
2 Tbl capers, optional
1 Tbl tomato paste, optional

1. Heat 1/2 cup of vegetable stock and steam saute onions, peppers, celery and garlic slowly, adding more stock as needed to prevent them sticking.
2. Add beans, bay leaves, tomatoes, basil, aubergine and rest of the stock, adding enough to just cover the vegetables. Cover and simmer. After about 20 minutes mix the stew adding a little more liquid if necessary.
3. Add seasonings, tomato paste, lemon and capers.
4. Top with walnut Parmesan.

Variations: Add white beans, capsicum, zucchinis, olives, mushrooms, red wine. Vary the herbs using marjoram, rosemary.


Gluten-free fast food that's healthy

Time stealers.

They have a habit of turning up at the end of the week. And they steal more than time.

They steal energy, motivation, and that I’m-never-eating-crap-food-again intention from earlier in the week.

It’s in these moments that something quick and delicious can divert your longing for a fast food fix.

We’re a bit of a noodle family. Our noodles of choice are buckwheat, rice, quinoa and occasionally standard wheat pasta.

Usually combined with something equally as quick. Gingery carrots with chilli; spring onions + greens; peppers and tomatoes ….

SAM_1940 (Small)Quick cooking is good. Gluten-free, quick cooking is even better. But noodles made from only beans + water, GENIUS!

Nothing else. Not even salt. Bless them.

What a simple way to add more plant-rich protein to your meal.

There’s fettuccine made from mung beans, noodles made from aduki beans, spaghetti made from black beans, and others.

For a quick dinner rough mash steamed broccoli + garlic + avocado. Mix through mung bean fettuccine and top with fresh basil and seasonings.

Check out your local health food store for the Explore Asian range of noodles and pastas. I’ll be dashing off to Putiputi Ra in Whangarei this week to beat the rush!

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Gluten free zucchini fritters


How to make egg-free gluten-free fritters

I have to confess. Egg-based dishes like fritters and omelettes were a favourite fall back for impromptu brunches and quick Sunday night dinners.SAM_1874 (Small)

Convenient. Tasty. Adaptable.

But fritters without eggs?

Thankfully there’s an alternative that boasts protein without the cholesterol.

Chickpea flour.

Other cultures have been on to this, like, forever. And the super big bonus is that chickpea flour is gluten free.

Zucchini Fritters

With a little preparation this gluten-free dinner will come together in a synch. 

I mix the chickpea batter in the morning, cover it and let it rest over the day. Standing the batter allows the flour to absorb the fluid.

You can let it stand it for as little as 1/2 an hour if you’re on the fly.

For a low-fat version use only water in the batter and bake the fritters on baking paper.

Close to dinnertime soak the chia seeds. Next grate the zucchini and let it drain in a sieve (not essential but works well with high-water content veges – squeeze out the water before adding to the batter).


1 cup chickpea flour

1/2 cup coconut cream

1/2 cup water

1 Tbl chia seeds, soaked in 3 Tbl water

1 large zucchini, grated

2 cloves garlic, pressed

Handful parsley

1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes

Salt and pepper

1. Mix chickpea flour, coconut cream, and water together (I use my blender). Stand.

2. Soak chia seeds in water for about 15 mins, stir occasionally.

3. Grate zucchini, drain, squeeze.

4. Mix the chia, zucchini, garlic, parsley, chilli flakes, salt and pepper into the batter.

5. Drop spoonfuls into a hot, well oiled pan. Rice bran oil works well at this heat and the better your pan the less you need to use. Cook both sides until nicely browned, about 2-3 mins.

Serve with your favourite chutney or guacamole.

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Pasta stuffed with cashew basil cream

Rich, creamy and nutritious, these shells will be gracing our Christmas table this year. They feel a little bit fancy, a little bit decadent and are easy to assemble. A serving of 2-3 stuffed shells is ample when served with salads and vegetable sides. SAM_1806 (Small)

You will need:

Big pasta shells

2 jars of pasta sauce or whizz up 2 cans tomatoes

Filling (this is enough for ~18 shells):

1 can cannellini beans rinsed & drained

1 C cashews

Handful fresh basil

Handful fresh spinach or kale, chopped

3-4 cloves garlic

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/2 tsp salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 180 C.

Bring a big pot of water to boil for pasta shells. Cook them only until tender – do not overcook as they may split – they will finish cooking in the oven. Drain.

Combine all filling ingredients in your food processor and process until smooth. Scrap down the sides as you go.

Pour one jar of sauce in a baking pan.

Stuff the shells using about a tablespoon of filling for each and place on top of the sauce.

Cover with second jar of sauce, cover and bake for about 20 minutes.

For a gluten free option hollow out zucchini, fill with cashew basil cream and bake.

Merry Christmas!


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Simple summer soup

When I want to combine all the flavours of early summer this is the soup I crave. Simple, tasty and flexible.

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1 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 carrot, chopped

2-3 new potatoes, scrubbed, halved and sliced thickly

1 zucchini, chopped

Handful of green beans

2 tomatoes

6 cups water/vegetable stock

1 C fresh basil leaves

1/2 roasted cashews

  • Roast the cashews in a medium oven for ~ 10 mins (watch them carefully).
  • Saute onion, garlic and carrot. Add potatoes and water/stock and bring to the boil. After five minutes add zucchinis, beans and tomatoes and simmer until potatoes are cooked.
  • Blend half the soup with roasted cashews and fresh basil.
  • Season well.
  • Serve with walnut parmesan and fresh basil leaves.

Psst parmesan used to be my cover-up-anything-solution and was one of the last types of dairy I stopped eating. Thankfully this walnut/yeast alternative not only tastes great, it comes without the high acidic rating of its dairy cousin.

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Related links:

How to replace dairy


How to make chocolate mousse in 5 minutes

Simple and elegant, this chocolate pud delivers dreamy delight with accents of surprise.

Play with the amounts of cacao powder (rich in nutrients but you can use cocoa), sweetener and spices to suit children and double-chocolate lovers.

Avoid overripe avocados as they will dominate the flavour.

Throw it all in and adjust. You can’t go wrong.

SAM_1771 (Small)

1-2 large, ripe bananas
1 avocado
¼ cup raw cacao powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbl maple syrup
1 Tbl water
Pinch of cardamom (optional)
Pinch of chilli (optional)


Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
Serve in a pretty glass and top with berries.

With my desire for a simple Christmas, this recipe will undoubtedly grace our table.

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1 dip to rule all others

I tip my hat to Lindley from Clements Road Seasonal Produce for linking me to this River Cottage recipe.

In a word: stunning.

It goes something like this:SAM_1651 (Small)

  • Cook a couple of beets until soft.
  • Toast a sprinkle of cumin seeds in a dry pan until the aroma is released ~1 min. Grind seeds.
  • Place beets & cumin in food processor with 1 tablespoon tahini, a piece of oldish bread (I used toast), juice of a lemon, crushed garlic to taste, salt and pepper.
  • Add beet cooking water to thin if necessary. Play around with amounts of cumin and garlic to suit your tastes.

Spread on everything!

And be sure to wash and bag the beet leaves for your green smoothies.SAM_1652 (Small)

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1 must have sauce recipe

This sauce is a game changer. It literally added a whole new repertoire to my weekday-fly-in-the-door-meals.

Simplicity rules. Sauce plus steamed veges.

This is no time to be shy. If you secretly love Brussel sprouts steam up a bunch and lather in this walnutty wonder. New potatoes, greens, broccoli … your underneath carrier of sauce options are unlimited.

A macrobiotic favourite, this recipe has but three ingredients and water. If you can, soak the walnuts for 20 mins to a couple of hours – it’s all the better for taste and digestibility, but do discard the soak water and rinse.

Thanks to Ann Crile Esselstyn and Forks Over Knives for the heads up on this now weekly staple.

To the blender add:SAM_1516 (Small)

1/2 cup walnuts

1/2 cup water

1 clove garlic

1 Tbl tamari

Adjust amounts of garlic, tamari and water to suit taste and texture.

And if you’ve got one of these lurking in your cupboards – get it out, wet it before use, and fill it with veges.SAM_1468 (Small)

Steam cooks fast and preserves flavour & nutrients.

Try 1/2-inch rounds of potato with the walnut sauce and you may want to marry me.


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6 ways to sneak in more good stuff

It’s true I’ve drunk a lot of tea in my time, quite a lot of coffee and yes I confess to a reasonable amount of imbibing.

Each of which robs my body of nutrients, raises my blood pressure and weakens my immune system, amongst a host of other naff things.

So this week I’m going to bless myself with less of the bad stuff and more of the good.

6 Drinks That Make Your Fluids Count

1. One of my favourite drinks for a busy day is mixing up a glass of chia fresca. Like an Aztec warrior, I’m primed for endurance.

SAM_1340 (Small)Mix 1 tsp chia to 1 glass of water adding a squirt of fresh lime. You can add more chia and some sweetener if you like. Let it sit for 10 minutes and stir again. Sip throughout the day and add more water as you go.

Benefits: Sustained energy, great source of omega 3s, and minerals such as calcium, iron and zinc.

2. For those in the depths of winter try this warming spiced tea.

To four cups of water add 1 tsp ground cinnamon (or half a stick), an inch of rough chopped fresh ginger, 1/4 tsp cloves, 1/4 tsp cardamom, 1/8 tsp ground pepper. Bring to the boil for several minutes. Steep and serve with a little sweetener. Chai just isn’t chai if it’s not sweet!

Benefits: Spices are rich in anti-inflammatory properties and great for warding off colds. Limit your amounts of fresh ginger if you’re on blood thinners.

3. It woudn’t be me writing this if I didn’t mention green juice. Fresh juices and smoothies are an alkalizing start to the day. Make extra and you’ve got a serious energy booster for the after lunch lull.

Benefits: Alkalizing, nutrient-laden, easily assimilated goodness.

4. Another warming option that is full of happy healthy enzymes and proteins is a cup of miso soup. Try out a few organic unpasteurized options and you’ll find a favourite. Simply stir a heaped tsp into a cup of hot water.

Benefits: A ‘live’ food, miso is rich in digestive enzymes, nutrients, amino acids and essential oils.

5. OK, so hot molasses won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but it reigns supreme for two important reasons. First, it is high in iron and is an excellent source for kids and adults alike. Second, it makes you poop.

Take one tsp of blackstrap molasses and stir into a cup of hot water. I like it with a splash of soy milk. Or try it served cold in non-dairy milk on ice.

Benefits: Iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium vit B6, laxative.

SAM_1380 (Small)6. Water, water everywhere but I’m not drinking enough! Our brain cells especially like to bathe in fluid and often our mental fog is remedied by a big glass of water. We also tend to eat when actually we’re thirsty.
Infuse a jug of water with micronutrients from mint leaves or other herbs, cucumbers, a stick of lemongrass, pineapple, lemon or watermelon.

Oh and do sip from elegant wares – a little ritual goes a long way!

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When the shizz hits the fan

Let’s call last week The Week of the Back.

A lower back strain of gargantuan proportions rendered me bedridden and in pain. It was not pretty. But for the sweet ministrations of my family and friends, it was a miserable week (ok, the woosy effect of the pain killers wasn’t all bad).

When the sh-t hits the fan in your physical self, it makes you bless every moment that you are well. It’s a wake up call. A call to act in a new way.

When Lee was diagnosed with high cholesterol, he and his wife Heather got right on it and moved to a low-fat plant-based diet.


Eating a plant-based diet gave them peace of mind.

When our bodies start to manifest changes, be it high blood pressure, weight gain or rising cholesterol, it’s the perfect time to act. Don’t be lulled into thinking this is a normal part of aging – it’s not! But where do you start?table set up (Small)

  • Be clear about your goal. If you truly want results you’ll be motivated to make the necessary changes to your diet and lifestyle.
  • Remember there is a tonne of plant-based food that you already love. Think of your favourite vegetable curry, steamed new potatoes and salad or a berry smoothie. Concentrate on what you can eat rather than on what you can’t.
  • You’re human and you’ve been graced with the ability to shift your perception. Build that mental muscle and see this change in diet as a life-giving adventure.
  • Be armed. Come and cook with me! Now is a good time to seek out high value information and support. Read The China Study and The Starch Solution for starters. These books blew me away and gave me the confidence that we were getting all the nutrients we need.
  • It’s about practice not perfection.

If changing your diet feels overwhelming make one change, then another, then another …

Do you have a story of making positive changes to your diet? Be it tiny steps or a massive overhaul I’d love to hear it!

Related Posts:

How to eat without meat

How to replace dairy

Cooking without oil

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