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Multicultural Inspiration from... Italy
Another long day at work, not much left in the fridge the day before grocery day, and another quick and healthy dinner required. And to make it even harder, I'm attempting to go gluten free at the moment. So no quick bowl of pasta or cous cous for me!
Why gluten free? For reasons that are my own, I haven't been entirely kind to my body lately. And it is suffering for it. I've been feeling quick lethargic, sluggish, bloated, have put on a few kilos (which bless them, my lovely friends have been kind enough to ignore and not draw to my attention - don't worry guys, I plan on having the weight I put on off within the next 8 weeks!) and I actually have a pimple (I never ever ever get pimples - in fact, I got teased at high school for not having any!). After some of my own research, a chat to a nutritionist, and a good hard look at Leanne Vogel's blog "A Healthful Pursuit," I decided to try out a month of no alcohol and no gluten. The reported benefits of a non-gluten diet include easier digestion, less bloating, improved concentration and a decrease in sugar and fat intake. I may go into my reasons behind trying this out and why I've been so horrible to my poor body in another post, but for now, let me know you one of my first gluten free Quick & Healthy meals...
First, turn on the oven to around 220°C, and grab 5 medium sized mushrooms, take out the stalks and cut a little more flesh out of the middle, to make little holes like this:
Next, dice up some veggies - my favourites are butternut pumpkin, zucchini and eggplant, with a few cherry tomatoes thrown in too. Put them on a lined baking dish or tray, spray a little oil and sprinkle with sea salt and herbs - I like thyme for this dish. Then, into the oven while you get everything else going.
While the veggies are going, grab 2 handfuls of baby spinach and roughly chop. Put a tiny bit of spray oil in a small saucepan and add in a tablespoon of pine nuts and toast them until golden brown. Add the spinach in and cook until wilted, then throw in a little bit of lemon zest and salt and set aside.
Heat another spray of oil in a fry pan and heat the mushrooms a little on each side.
Once slightly browned, take them off the fry pan, and put a small spoon of ricotta in the holes.
Spoon a bit of the spinach mix on top of that...
... sprinkle a little parmesan cheese on top (if you want)...
... and quickly pull the oven tray out with the veggies, pop the mushrooms onto the end, turn the heat down a little, and put it back into the oven!
While I was waiting for that, I decided to quickly whip up some soft polenta, because I absolutely LOVE it! Half a cup of milk and half a cup of water into a small saucepan and bring to the boil, slowly adding the cornmeal bit by bit, whisking as you go, until it's nice and thick and yellow, trailing a little as you whisk, and coming away from the edges of the pot.
At this point, I like to throw in a small handful of grated parmesan and a pinch of salt, stir it up and spoon it onto my plate!
Out with the veggies and mushrooms, and onto the plate...
... and dig in!
The roasted veggies on the soft, creamy polenta takes me back to my childhood at my Nonna's house, and the combination of the lemon, ricotta, spinach and pine nuts are one of my favourite -the zesty, citrusy punch with the crunchy nuts and creamy ricotta is just amazing! I know it might seem a bit time consuming, contrary to my "quick" label, but if you wash as you go, it actually is quite time efficient - by the time you're ready to eat, all your dishes are done and you can just kick back and relax!
And over to you lovely readers - what are your current quick and healthy meals?
(*** NOTE: Not all of my next few posts will be gluten free, as I still have a few posts on the wait list to be blogged when I have time to write them up! But I swear, I'm not eating gluten in July!***)