How to peel a butternut squash

Yesterday, when I was getting my fruit and veg, one of the ladies at the shop, asked me how I peel my butternut squash.  She reminded me of a friend of mine who expressed concern for the safety of her fingers when peeling squash.

I used to peel the squash with a sharp knife, until I discovered this very easy method.

Peeling butternut squash in 5 easy steps

  1. Scrub the skin of the squash under running water and pat dry.Scrub butternut squash under running water
  2. Pierce the skin with a fork and rub the squash with olive oil, salt and pepper. Pierce skin with fork
  3. Place on a lined roasting tin and put in a hot oven (230 degrees C.) for 60 minutes – turning once – until tender.Coat squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper
  4. Let the squash rest at room temperature until it is cool enough to handle.Roast butternut squash (2)
  5. Peel the skin off with a paring knife or with your fingers and use the squash as required.  Roasted squash keeps for a couple of days (in a closed container) in the fridge.peeling butternut squash

Indeed, you can peel or scrape the skin off a butternut squash without roasting it.

However, experience taught me that the squash has a better taste when roasted and it is so much easier to peel.

Another option would be, placing the squash in the microwave for a five minutes. Personally, I am not a fan of this method, cause I find that the taste of the squash suffers in the process.

Try roasted squash in soups or in salads.  Once you roast your squash, you will not go back.

My thanks go to:

Good Housekeeping for video

How to make tasty quinoa in 5 easy steps

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is one trendy super-food which boasts plenty of benefits. Quinoa is packed with protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. No wonder it has taken the markets by storm over the past 2 – 3 years and is widely available in supermarkets and restaurants.

I have a natural liking to grains, however, I have friends and colleagues who find quinoa bland and tasteless.  I guess it’s one of those foods which you either love or hate.

If you’d like to give your quinoa a bit of a kick, try the cooking method below and let me know how you get on.

5 easy steps to tasty quinoa

  1. rinse one cup of white quinoa under running water (drain well)
  2. put one tablespoon olive oil in a large pan and sauté one finely chopped onion, three cloves crushed garlic and quarter teaspoon crushed red chillies (optional) saute onion and garlic
  3. tip the quinoa with the onion mixture and toast until the quinoa is dried from all water and coated with the mixture – stirring continuously add quinoa and toast
  4. add 1½ cups hot water – stir well – cover with tight fitting lid and bring to boil add hot water and bring to boilcover with tight fitting lid and simmer
  5. lower heat to minimum and simmer for 15 minutes – turn off the heat and stand (covered) for an additional 5 minutes – fluff, add finely chopped parsley and quinoa is ready to serve.add finely chopped parsley

How can I use quinoa?

Quinoa is pretty versatile. You can use it instead of couscous, rice or barley.  I use is as a side dish with fish or as a salad base topped with grilled vegetables.

I have also used quinoa to thicken soups.

Lately, I found breakfast porridge made with quinoa instead of oats.

You can also use quinoa flour for baking.

Share your quinoa recipes

If you have any quick and easy quinoa recipes you’d like to share, contact me and I will publish your recipes for others to enjoy.

Italian cuisine

Surprise! I’m back from a surprise weekend break in Lampedusa!

I didn’t know much about this little island, but I quickly found out … Lampedusa the land of sea, sun and good food!

Lampedusa is the largest island of the Italian Pelagie Islands. With a surface area of 20.2 square kilometres, it  is the southern-most island of the Republic of Italy; closer to Tunisia than it is to Sicily, even though it forms part of the Sicilian Province of Agrigento. Lampedusa is referred to as the Tropics of the Mediterranean.

A must destination if you love the sun, sea and good food.  And that’s what I’m going to talk about, today … good food … Italian food!

What makes Italian food so unique?

The Italians are renowned for their mercato – food market.  They are known to go to the markets first thing in the morning and buy the freshest produce they find.  They will choose seasonal, local produce over fruit, veg and fish which are “force produced”. This is a  cardinal secret behind Italian cuisine.

The second secret is keeping food simple.  Most Italian dishes consist of fresh food which is cooked in the simplest way possible.

 

Grilled fresh tuna.JPG

Grilled fresh tuna

 

Up to this very day, a lot of Italian households still prepare their own homemade pasta. In Italian households and restaurants sauces are made from scratch; they do not come in jars. They like their ragù made with fresh tomatoes, but more often than not, most dishes come with a simple drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some balsamico.  Gravy has no space in Italian cuisine.  When food is nice and fresh, you don’t want gravies and sauces masking the taste.

The Italians also respect tradition.  They do not forsake quality for quantity.  A perfect example would be the famous Parmigiano Reggiano. The slow process behind making this renowned cheese has come down over the centuries through generations.  It takes time to produce cause it needs to mature for months, but Italians will not choose to speed up the process. They know that people from all over the world are prepared to pay the right price for a matured piece of Parmigiano.

Last but not least, the Italians have flair when it comes to food.  They are known to be capable of whipping up a healthy meal with the most basic of ingredients.

Lunch - simple salad

Salad made with basic ingredients

 

For Italians, cooking is an art full of amor propio – true love – which has come down through the generations. The food cooked in Italian households is same food you find in restaurants, with very little or no tweaks at all.

What makes Italian food healthy?

By and large, most Mediterranean food is healthy, but I guess the Italians’ way of life adds to the benefits of their cuisine.

In Italy people take their time to eat.  Dining with friends and family is an experience which cannot be rushed.  Most restaurants do not take “second sittings”, as has become customary in most of Europe, including Malta. You are allowed to enjoy and savour your food; fresh, wholesome food served in sensible portions.

The Italians eat to live not live to eat.

Chef Gennaro Contaldo is one of the brains behind the chain Jamie’s Italians.  Here are some of his recipes for you to try.  Go for it and let me know how you get on.

 

My thanks go to

The Ultimate Guide to the Mediterranean Diet

Dr Hyman – The Secret Way Italians Stay Healthy and Thin

and to Vimeo.com

 

Kids’ lunch box

When my daughter was in kindergarten, I got a call from the playschool asking if my daughter had a medical condition which prevented her from having sweets. What a question! I explained that I chose not to give my daughter sugary stuff in her lunch box. Bet they thought I was weird! (Patience …)

Lion-Jungle-BentoYears later, my granddaughter is not allowed to take sweets to school.  Times changed. Schools (in Malta) no longer allow sweets in a kid’s lunch box. Some schools allow birthday cakes (which I think should also stop).  But, in the main, children, especially in junior schools (5-10 years) are encouraged to get “healthy” lunches.

What are healthy lunches?

Healthy-Lunch-Ideas-for-Kids-at-Home-copy1Children can be fussy, and some even more than others.  I remember my son was ever so difficult with his packed lunches, but we got there in the end.  I think, the secret of a “healthy” lunch is fresh, simple food; no fuss, no frills.  Children love colour … go for it! The more colourful their lunch, the healthier it is. Mix and match from raw vegetable sticks to cherry tomatoes to different kinds of bread and pieces of fruit plus plenty of water. Variety is the spice of life … keep them guessing what’s for lunch or involve them; whatever works best for you.

Kids’ lunch box ideas

I do not use processed meats (in fact, I do not eat meat at all) so  will suggest alternatives.  Hopefully, you will find something your kids like …
salmon burgerThe first recipe that caught my attention is this superhealthy salmon burger.  It makes a nice supper and can also double-up as a school lunch.  Children love burgers and fish fingers; go healthy and make your own mushroom and chickpea burger. If children are brought up eating wholesome foods, they will grow to love them. How about a slice of minty salmon and broccoli frittata with some tomato salad or a Vietnamese chicken baguette?

With a little bit of planning and imagination the possibilities are endless.  Healthy lunches for … kids gives you more tips and suggestions on what to put in your kids’ lunch box.


Bibliography

bbcgoodfood.com

 

Photo credits

followinginmyshoes.com

bbcgoodfood.com

 

Real powerfoods

What are “powerfoods”?

In all probability you have quite a selection of powerfoods in your kitchen.  You  are just not aware of their potential.  Powerfoods are, very much, everyday foods; real foods – from the earth to the table – to use one of my favourite expressions!  Powerfoods are made up fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, grains and beans as well as some exotic stuff, such as green tea, honey and turmeric.

Why are these foods classified as powerfoods?

Powerfoods energise and balance the body.  They make you feel good and healthy. Powerfoods are almost always whole, but not necessarily raw or gluten-free.  Their chemical influence on the body includes:

  • Alkaline-forming vs. acid-forming
  • Organic vs. chemical-infused
  • Raw vs. cooked
  • Gluten-free vs. gluten-containing foods
  • Complex carbohydrates (smart carbs) vs. simple sugars (dumb carbs)
  • Whole vs. processed.

food-face-900

Here is a list of powerfoods (thanks to RealFoodforLife.com) with their nutritional benefits:

Fruits:

Apples: Powerfood Pomme

Bananas:  Healthy, Silly and Sexy   

Lemons: the Alkaline Powerfood

Mangos:   10 Health Benefits

Pears: ‘Gift of the Gods’

Pumpkins:  the biggest powerfood…ever!

Saskatoons: Our favorite berry.

Raspberries:  Summer Red Powerfood.

Watermelon:  It’s alkaline and tastes soo good.

Vegetables:

Asparagus:  The Balanced Powerfood

Cabbage: The big Powerfood for glowing skin and hair – some say it collects “moon power”

Carrots:  This crunchy powerfoods have health benefits that go beyond your eyes!

Celery for Weight Loss and Calm

Cranberries:  The little powerfood with a big punch!

Green Peas:  Much MORE than a poor man’s meat!

Onions:  The World Health Organization says “Eat them for Better health”

Spinach:  The First Green Powerfood

Squash:  Powerfood for all seasons

Zucchini Love:  Why Diana Had to live on this nutritious powerfood

 Nuts and seeds:

Almonds: King of nuts

Walnuts:  The crinkly powerfood with the highest antioxidant activity of any nut

Pumpkin Seeds: The alkalizing seed

Grains and beans:

Brown Rice: Why it is better then white rice

Lentils:  This high protein, low cost bean is a stable of healthy diets

Millet: The alkalizing grain

Quinoa Powerfood: This nutty flavored powerfood  is pronounced Keen – Wa

Oatmeal: 10 smart reasons to enjoy oatmeal.

Exotic:

Green Tea:  the Powerfood that Rules the World

Honey: 10 Health Benefits

Miso: Powerfood from the East

Seaweed: Ancient Powerfood

Stevia:  Learn its sweet benefits

Tumeric:  The REAL Spice of Life.

I bet there’s hardly one item on the above list you are not familiar with.  Too right!  Powerfoods are real foods.  Good natural food … try to go for organic when you can and if not, wash your fruit and veg well.

Out with food supplements and in with powerfoods.

For further reading go to http://realfoodforlife.com/

 

Fruit and Vegetable Festival

On Sunday morning I went to the fruit and vegetable festival in Zebbiegh (Malta).  I had to ask how to get there! Never mind … There were stalls with very old bric-a-brac, an elderly woman spinning sheep’s wool, live folklore singers, old trucks and cars on show, a section for animals and, as one would expect, stalls with fresh fruit and veg grown in the area.

Fruit & Veg Festival (5), iz-Zebbiegh, Malta

The festival

The festival is organised by the farming community of Mgarr, Malta (there’s also Mgarr Harbour in Gozo).  It’s a very small fest and cannot be compared to similar festivals abroad. I did not count the number of stalls, but off the top of my head, I’d say there were no more than 10 selling fruit and veg. But it was worth the trip … nice crisp lettuce, picked from the fields earlier on that morning, bright green broccoli, marrows, field tomatoes, potatoes, onions, strawberries, peppers, melons … a rainbow of colours … everything so crisp and fresh … and at a good price too!

IMG_0552

Local produce

Mgarr is a rural village located in the north of the island of Malta.  It is renowned, across the Maltese Islands for its agricultural produce.  Mgarr is one of the few places, in Malta, where fresh water springs are found and the soil in the area is, kind-of, reddish brown. The fruit and veg grown here taste so much better than produce growing elsewhere on the island, where treated water is used.  The Mgarr strawberries are the cream of the crop!

Fruit & Veg Festival (6), iz-Zebbiegh, MaltaI was not the only one who planned to get my weekly fruit and veg from the fest.   The vegetable stalls were so busy; everyone choosing the best they find.

For some reason, I seem to have an affinity with food markets – big or small!