Ginger has been known for thousands of years both as a cooking ingredient and as medicine. This perennial herb originally comes from China and India. Today, it is widely grown in Asia, Australia and in the Americas. While the delicate leaves of ginger can be used in salads, its root contains the real benefits. The root called “rhizomes” are rich in Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, magnesium, manganese, potassium, copper and dietary fiber.
Ginger’s root has a very distinctive, tangy taste. It is used in many Asian dishes to balance their flavours. Also, a very aromatic tea can be made of its root. Drinking ginger tea is an excellent way to enjoy a range of healthbenefits associated with the plant.
The root of ginger is known to be very beneficial for a number of conditions. It helps combat nausea, improves digestion and helps theabsorption of food. It prevents bloating and some people feel that it boosts their appetite. Ginger detoxifies the liver and it has anti-inflammatory properties, which make it a good remedy for joint and muscle problems. For people who suffer from respiratory problems due to allergies or to common cold, ginger can be a remedy, too. The root also improves blood circulation by preventing fat blocking arteries. In addition, it can relive pain related to menstrual discomfort; it strengthens immunity, boosts fertility and relives stress.
Though the health benefits are proven, ginger also can cause some side effects. If an excessive amount of ginger tea is consumed, digestive problems and acidity may present themselves. Also, too much ginger tea may lower blood sugar levels. Ginger may also disturb some anesthetic agents, causing bleeding and the slowing down of the healing process. Therefore, it is best to avoid ginger for a while for those, who have a surgery scheduled. Ginger may also disturb a good night’s sleep, so it is best not to drink ginger tea at night. Generally, ginger should also be avoided by people who suffer hemophilia or similar conditions; those who have hypertension and those who have gallstones. Also, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers should avoid ginger tea, just to be on the safe side.
It is remarkably easy to make ginger tea. Try it today and enjoy the health benefits. The recipe below is for four servings, so drink it with your family or friends to avoid over-indulgence!
500 ml water
1 tablespoon of fresh grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 tablespoon of honey or agave nectar
Juice of half a lemon
Optional additions: pinch of pepper, camomile flowers, fresh mint leaves, half a teaspoon of turmeric.
Peel the ginger root with a peeler.
Grate the ginger with a grater.
Boil the water.
Place the grated ginger in a teapot and pour over the water.
Add the cinnamon, lemon juice and honey/agave syrup. Stir well.
You may serve it hot or cold with ice-cubes. It is lovely both ways! Enjoy!
Cannelloni is a typical Italian dish, which can be made with minced beef, cheese and/or vegetables. Cannelloni is typically made with a cylindrical type of pasta or with fresh lasagne sheets that are rolled over around the filling. Cannelloni is typically sitting on tomato sauce and sometimes either tomato or béchamel sauce is used on the top of the dish. Most of the time, cheese is sprinkled on its top and then the dish is baked so that the flavours mingle and the topping turns brown and slightly crispy.
There is little to know about the origins of cannelloni. Probably it originates from the 19th or early 20th Century and it is associated with the name of Nicola Federico, an Italian chef. It is thought that he created the cannelloniin a small restaurant in Naples. From the little restaurant, the cannelloni spread all over the world. It became very popular; so much that probably most Italian restaurants offer it on their menu.
I often make cannelloni based on the below vegetarian recipe that I found on BBC Good Food. It is very healthy and nutritious as it uses spinach and tofu for filling. The dish is sitting on a bed of tomato sauce and tomato sauce is used on its top, too. Instead of cheese, nuts and breadcrumbs are used to achieve the crispy finish.
The dish contains ample amount of vitamins and nutrients. Thanks to the spinach, vitamin K, A, B2, B6, E, manganese, folate, magnesium, iron, copper and calcium are included in the dish, amongst other nutrients. The tofu mostly contributes calcium, manganese, copper, selenium and protein and also includes other minerals and vitamins to a lesser extent. Nuts and the ample amount of tomato sauce used in this dish provide additional valuable nutritional content.
This spinach & tofu cannelloni serves 4 people. Serve it with steamed or stir-fried French beans, broccoli or okra or mix them all up for a lovely side dish. Try it today and enjoy both the health benefits and the lovely taste of this dish!
50 grams of pine nuts or walnuts (roughly chopped)
400 gram bag of frozen spinach (defrosted)
350 gram pack of silken tofu
300 gram pack of fresh lasagne sheets
4 tablespoons of fresh breadcrumbs
Salt (according to taste)
Pepper (according to taste)
Basil or oregano or Italian mixed herbs (according to taste)
Pinch of grated nutmeg
Sweat the onion in half of the oil in a saucepan. Add one-third of the garlic and fry until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Pour in the tomatoes, season with salt, pepper and basil / oregano / Italian mixed herbs. Bring the sauce to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Pre-heat the oven to 180 Celsius.
Heat half the oil in a saucepan and fry one-third of the garlic for 1 minute. Add half the pine nuts / walnuts and the spinach. Wilt the spinach and tip out the excess liquid.
Whizz tofu in a food processor until smooth. Add it to the spinach & nut mixture. Add the nutmeg and some pepper. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Pour half of the tomato sauce into a 20 cm x 30 cm ovenproof dish. Divide the spinach, nut & tofu mixture between the lasagne sheets. Roll the lasagne sheets up and lay them on top of the tomato sauce in the ovenproof dish.
Pour half of the tomato sauce over the lasagne sheets, cover with aluminium foil and bake the dish for 30 minutes.
Mix breadcrumbs with one-third of the garlic and half of the pine nuts / walnuts. Sprinkle this mixture over the dish, drizzle with a little oil and bake for 10 minutes uncovered until the crumbs and nuts are golden.
Cold pasta salads can offer really good solution for light and quick lunches, picnics or even for parties. As they are served cold, they can be pre-prepared, which is a huge advantage in a number of scenarios.
I often make this pasta salad not only because of practical considerations. My husband simply loves it! I love it too not only because it is so easy to prepare but because it is full of fresh and tasty vegetables. The goat’s cheese or feta gives it a bit of a “binding” agent while the pine nuts or walnuts make it slightly crunchy. I normally serve it with a simple egg sandwich or with rustic bread with pesto, guacamole or hummus spread.
The recipe originates from the BBC Food website but I made minor changes to it. Ever since I found it, this dish has been an essential part of my household. Everyone who tasted it so far, instantly fell in love with it. So, don’t hesitate to try it and impress your family and friends with it.
300 gram pasta (preferably durum penne, farfalle or fusilli)
250 gram cherry tomatoes (quartered)
100 gram black olives (stoned and sliced)
225 gram baby spinach leaves
1 bunch of fresh basil (alternatively 1 tablespoon of dried basil flakes can be used)
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Juice of one lemon
200 gram goat’s cheese (crumbled) or feta cheese (squared)
2 tablespoons of toasted pine nuts or walnuts (if walnuts are used, chop them roughly)
Salt according to taste
Cook the pasta according to package instructions until al dente. Drain the pasta, rinse in cold water. Set aside to cool.
In a large salad bowl, add the quartered cherry tomatoes and sprinkle them with the salt. Add the olives and the baby spinach leaves. Sprinkle the mixture with the olive oil and the juice of the lemon. Add the crumbled goat’s cheese and mix well. Add the cold pasta to the salad mixture and mix gently but thoroughly.
Sprinkle the salad with the toasted pine nuts or walnuts.
Serve immediately. Alternatively, you can keep it for a few days in the fridge in a sealed container.
Serve it with sandwiches, eggs, spreads and the success of this quick meal will be guaranteed. Offer some old-fashioned lemonade, lemon water or ginger beer with it and the meal will be complete & unforgettable.
Pastas with cream-based sauces can be really delicious. However, these dishes are often heavy, unhealthy and very fattening. It is best to minimise their consumption and replace them with healthier alternatives.
When I started to cook in a health-conscious way, I ditched the recipes that contained too much fresh cream. I then came across this vegan pasta with an interesting, pumpkin-based creamy sauce. I immediately recognized that it is a perfect alternative to the fatty pasta dishes swimming in cream-based sauces. It is equally delicious and attractive, but this creaminess has nothing to do with animal fat.
I found the recipe for this pasta with pumpkin sauce & broccoli on the website of Forks over Knives. The recipe was developed by Victoria Fiore. I made minor changes to it, so the recipe below is slightly different to her original “velvety macaroni”.
Let’s see how to make a creamy but healthy pasta dish for two people.
1 large pumpkin (or several smaller pieces)
2 medium-sized broccoli heads
300 gram dry pasta (preferably durum or rice macaroni, penne, farfalle or fusilli)
4 garlic clove
120 ml plant-based milk (preferably almond, hazelnut, coconut or flax seed milk)
1 tablespoon of garlic powder
1 tablespoon of parsley flakes
Salt according to taste
Pepper according to taste
Bake the pumpkin in the oven on 180 Celsius for half an hour.
Cook the pasta according to packet instructions and set aside.
Separate the broccoli into small florets and cut their stems off. Chop the stems into small pieces.
Place the broccoli stem pieces to a saucepan. Add a bit of water, cover the saucepan with a lid and steam the broccoli stems for 5 minutes. When they are soft, add the broccoli florets, cover the pan and steam the broccoli mixture for further 5 minutes. Drain the water (if any).
By this stage, the pumpkin is ready. Remove from the oven, let it cool for a while and peel it. Remove seeds and cut it into small pieces. Put the pumpkin pieces into a saucepan, add the garlic cloves and cover the pan. Steam it for 10 minutes. If it starts to brown, add some water to avoid the pumpkin pieces sticking to the pan and burning. Once the pumpkin mixture is ready, drain the water (if any) and add the plant-based milk to the pan to create a mixture. Season with salt, garlic powder and pepper.
Transfer the steamed pumpkin mixture into a blender and blend it until smooth and creamy to create the pumpkin sauce. Add the parsley to the sauce and mix well.
Transfer the pumpkin sauce back to the saucepan. Add the pasta and the broccoli mixture and mix well.
Heat the dish for a few minutes and serve immediately.
Having a British husband made me curious about the British cuisine. I looked up several recipes and I was instantly interested in the vegetarian version of Shepherd’s Pie, also known as “Shepherdless Pie”. This savoury pie looked substantial and healthy enough to serve for lunch or dinner and it seemed to go well with all sorts of steamed vegetables. When I first made a veggie version of Shepherd’s Pie based on the below recipe from Forks over Knives, my husband said it was really tasty. If an Englishman says that, then the recipe must evoke traditional flavours!
I also find the history of Shepherd’s Pie interesting. I learned that originally it was called “Cottage Pie” and was first made at around the 1790s in Northern England. The name comes from the cottages, where poor people lived at that era. At around this time, potatoes were introduced to England and were were very affordable, so poor people ate them very frequently. The women of that era thought that they could combine leftover meat with potatoes, so they created a layered pie from leftover roasted meat and mashed potatoes. The added mashed potato crust to the top, for a nice and crunchy finish and called this dish “Cottage Pie”.
Later, in 1877, the term “Shepherd’s Pie” was introduced to the British culinary world. Ever since it is used synonymously with “Cottage Pie”. These days, the British call the dish “Shepherd’s Pie” when the meat used in the pie is lamb. If it is made with other types of minced meat, then the pie is called “Cottage Pie”.
Now, let’s see my favourite recipe for a delicious veggie Sherphed’s Pie, or if you like, Shepherdless Pie.
1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced small
1 large carrot, peeled and diced small
2 stalks celery, diced small
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 sprig rosemary (alternatively use dried rosemary)
350 grams green lentils, rinsed
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons tomato paste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper according to taste
8 medium red-skin potatoes, peeled and chopped
4 parsnips, peeled and chopped
Place the onion, carrot, and celery in a large saucepan and sauté over low to medium heat for 10 minutes. Add water if needed to keep the vegetables from sticking to the pan. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the rosemary, lentils, bay leaf, and enough water to cover the lentils by 3 inches. Bring them to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium and cook for 30 minutes, covered with a lid.
Preheat the oven to 175° Celsius. Add the tomato paste and cook for another 15 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Season with salt and pepper, according to taste. Remove from the heat, discard the bay leaf and rosemary sprig (unless you use dried herbs), and pour the lentils into a large baking dish.
In the meantime, add the potatoes and parsnips to a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring the pot to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium and cook the vegetables for approximately 15 minutes, covered. Remove the potatoes and parsnips from the heat and drain. Mash the vegetables until smooth and creamy, then season with additional salt and pepper, according to taste. Once it is smooth, spread the mixture evenly over the lentils.
Bake the casserole for 25 minutes. Before serving, set it aside for 10 minutes. Serve it with steamed French beans, broccoli, carrots or salad greens.
Supermarkets these days have a vast array of products on their shelves. Cooking oil is a typical example where the choice is ample. Plus, it tends not to be really straightforward which one to choose and why. Being an avid home cook, I faced the dilemma of choosing the right cooking oil myself, so I did a bit of research to be able to make an informed choice in the matter.
Just a Bit of Science
It is important to understand some basic features of cooking oils, which may sound a bit scientific. Nonetheless, it is not too complicated as we only need to understand a few basic features and principles of fats and fatty acids, as cooking oils are made up of these compounds.
Fatty acids differ based on their chemical shapes. Generally, depending on their shapes, fatty acids can be saturated, monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. All fats contain all types of fatty acids, but they are classified into one of the above categories based on the type of the fatty acid that makes up most of its structure. Fatty acids differ from each other based on how well they pack together. Saturated fatty acids pack together tightly. This feature makes them stable even if they are exposed to heat and light. Monounsaturated fatty acids do not pack together as well as their saturated counterparts do. Therefore, their stability level is lower when they are exposed to heat and light. The polyunsaturated fatty acids don’t pack together well at all, therefore they are unstable.
The stability level of cooking oils is decisive in terms of whether they are suitable for cooking or not. Stable oils can resist chemical changes when heated to high temperatures; therefore they are suitable to cook with. However, unstable ones may go rancid when heated up, which means that they undergo chemical decomposition and other changes. Their so-called smoke point, the heat at which they start to go rancid and a bluish smoke becomes visible, gives a good guidance whether it is suitable for cooking or not.
I collected eight of my favourite cooking oils. Let’s see why they made to the list of my top eight!
Best Cooking Oils to Use
Almond Oil: Almond oil is stable up to approximately 255 Celsius and it is composed of a high amount of monounsaturated fatty acids (approximately 62%). It is associated with health benefits including cardiovascular health and high amount of vitamin E levels and phytosterols that are known to improve cholesterol numbers. It s suitable for cooking at high temperatures and also works well in salads and desserts because of its natural almond flavor.
Avocado Oil: Avocado oil has a very high tolerance to heat. It can be heated up to approximately 265 Celsius. It is high in monounsaturated fatty acids and it is considered heart-healthy as it is known to improve cholesterol levels. Avocado oil is very versatile due to having high heat tolerance as well as a mild, nutty flavor. It is perfect for high heat cooking including grilling, sautéing, frying, stir-frying and baking. It works well for salad dressings, too.
Coconut oil: Coconut oil is very stable as it is 86.5% saturated fat. The saturated fat contained in this oil is different to saturated fat found in animal products. They contain medium chain triglycerides that are metabolized in a different way than animal fats and therefore they do not clog our arteries. Coconut oil was found to lower cholesterol levels as well as to maintain a healthy digestive tract. It remains stable up to 230 Celsius, which makes it ideal for frying, baking and cooking at high temperatures. Always use certified organic coconut oil, which means that it does not go through refining, hydrogenation, bleaching or deodorizing. Also, don’t be surprised to find that it is solid at room temperature.
Red Palm Oil: Red palm oil is derived from the fruit of the palm tree. It is high in saturated fat and has a high proportion of healthy fatty acids. Also it is rich in vitamin E, Beta-Carotene, Alpha-Carotene and Coenzyme Q10. Due to its saturated fat content, it is a stable type of oil, which makes it perfect for high heat cooking. If you wish to try using red palm oil, go for brands that source the ingredient sustainably. Palm oil has courted controversy due to its potential harm to endangered rainforest environments. The palm trees from which the oil is extracted are integral to that ecosystem. Large-scale commercial activity in these settings has potential to threaten the balance in this environment.
Cooking Oils to Use with Care
Many cooking oils have a vast array of health benefits, but are not suitable for cooking at high temperatures. If you heat them to high temperatures, their nutrients can oxidize, which means the oil goes rancid. This can lead to vascular diseases and other health damages.
Olive Oil: Olive oil, particularly its extra virgin type, is a very good source of monounsaturated fats, which is linked with hearth health. It has a range of further health benefits including lowering total blood cholesterols, being rich in antioxidants, decreasing both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, aiding blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity. There is some evidence that its consumption helps reduce obesity, the risk of osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis. Its consumption is therefore very much recommended. However, apart from the best quality extra virgin olive oils the smoke point of which is at around 210 Celsius, its resistance of heat is not higher than 160 Celsius. Unfortunately, the very good quality extra virgin olive oils are too pricy to cook with. Therefore, olive oil is best to be spared for cooking with lower temperatures, e.g. drizzling on steamed vegetables, sautéing or in salad dressings.
Peanut Oil: Peanut oil is a good and healthy choice as it is free from cholesterol, it contains essential fatty acids, it is a good source of plant sterols that can reduce cholesterol levels and it contains vitamin E as well as resveratrol, which is associated with protective function against a range of diseases including cancer. It also has a nice, nutty aroma and a sweet taste. It is good for all sorts of cooking and it is particularly suitable for Asian recipes. Nonetheless, use it sparingly, as it is richer in Omega 6 fatty acids than in Omega 3 fatty acids. While both of these fatty acids are necessary for human health, the Western diet tends to create an imbalance between the two, in the favour of Omega 6 fatty acids. Also, if you have peanut allergy, be careful with it, especially with the cold-pressed versions, which may contain allergens.
Sesame Seed Oil: Sesame seed oil has a number of health benefits including reducing blood pressure and the risk of health disease. It is cholesterol friendly, too. It contains sesamol and sesamin, two powerful antioxidants. It is a good choice for low-heat cooking, sautéing and low-heat baking due to its high smoke point. It is one of the cooking oils that are less prone to go rancid. It is best for sautéing, low-heat cooking and baking and due to its nice and light flavor, it is good in stir-fries, too. It is excellent for Chinese, Indian and South-East Asian recipes.
Walnut Oil: Walnut oil is a healthy choice for low heat cooking. As it contains 63 percent polyunsaturated fatty acids, it is not a very stable oil for cooking. Heating rapidly reduces its quality and also damages its flavor by producing a bit of a bitter taste. It is best to used in salads, where its delicate nutty flavor adds a great taste. Alternatively, use it on steamed vegetables, marinades and sautés.
Cooking Oils to Avoid
I did not list commonly used vegetable oils like sunflower oil, canola oil, rapeseed oil and corn oil among my favourite cooking oils. The reason for that is that these types of commercial oils tend to be partially hydrogenated or refined. This process is known to create trans fats that are unhealthy for human health. Also, often these oils are made from genetically modified crops. Vegetable oils tend to be richer in Omega 6 fatty acids than in Omega 3 fatty acids, therefore they need to be consumed sparingly to avoid imbalances in the diet.
Flaxeed oil, hemp oil and hazelnut oil did not make it to my favourite oils, either. While they have excellent health benefits, they are too delicate to cook with. They can be used in salad dressings and in dips and should be consumed in their cold form.
A Final Word of Advice
As cooking oils are delicate substances, some of which can go rancid even if they are exposed to light and air, always buy them in small quantities, keep their lid on when not using and store them in cool, dark and dry places.