More days of happy: Burger bonanza

Being mindful while I make some delicious and nutritious burgers:

Having fallen well and truly off the healthy eating wagon a few weeks ago, it’s time to get back to eating foods that feel good for my body: this means avoiding wheat, (cow) dairy and sugar.

I know that these three food groups aggravate my CFS symptoms, so it makes sense to keep away from them for a while.

I needed to replenish my freezer stash of healthy choices, so I can be prepared and avoid temptation – which is most dangerous when I’m feeling really wiped out and have no energy to get creative in the kitchen.

I’ve discovered a few fantastic recipes for healthy burgers, and they go really well with salads and stir-frys. And over the last few days, I’ve been using my limited energy to make these three lovelies…

Green Burgers
by Healthy Chef, Teresa Cutter

Green Burger with salad
My absolute favourites are Green Burgers (thank you Teresa Cutter!). Packed with green goodies, pistachios, peas, coriander, spinach and green onions, along with chick peas and some yummy flavourings – these are one of the most tastiest things I’ve ever made. Honest!

Green Burgers ingredients100g pistachio nuts, de-shelled
225g cooked chickpeas or 1 x 400 g tin chickpeas, well-drained
100g (1 cup) green peas, fresh or frozen
2 bunches coriander, chopped
50g baby spinach leaves
4 spring onions, finely sliced
2 tbsp tahini
generous grind of black pepper
2 tbsp tamari soy sauce

1. Preheat the oven to fan 180°C/Gas mark 4.
2. Grind the pistachio nuts coarsely for 10 seconds in your food processor.

de-shelling pistachios(As I couldn’t find pre-de-shelled pistachios, I mindfully de-shelled an entire 150g bag, and ate only a couple along the way!)

3. Add the drained chickpeas,  green peas, coriander, spinach, spring onions and pulse again until combined.
4. Add the tahini, pepper and tamari.
5. Pulse again until combined. You should have an awesome green vegetable mix that comes together when pressed.
Green Burger mixture
6. Form into 10 burgers (I scoop the ingredients into a 1/4 cup, turn and tap to release, and then gently flatten).
7. Coat with pumpkin and sesame seeds for garnish if you like for presentation.
Green Burgers8. Drizzle or brush tops with a little olive oil and bake in oven for 20 minutes until heated through and golden.
9. Serve with salad or stir fry veggies.

Feta and Black Bean Burgers
Adapted from Helmsley+Helmsley. The Art of Eating Well

Feta & Black Bean Burger
Next it was time to make some Feta and Black Bean Burgers. The sun-dried tomatoes make these extra yummy and the chilli gives them a nice little kick, or a big kick if you’re feeling spicy!

Feta and Black Bean Burgers ingredients
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, grated
2 tins of black beans (drained weight 500 g) or 500g home cooked beans (dried weight 200g, activated overnight)
25g spelt flour*
25g almond meal
1 tsp dried thyme
150g sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp tomato purée
a handful of fresh parsley
1 tbsp red chillies
100g feta (made from sheep/goat’s milk if avoiding dairy), chopped
sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas mark 4.
2. Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat and fry the onion until softened but not coloured.
3. Stir in the garlic and cook for a few minutes before adding the drained cooked beans.
4. Mash the beans roughly with the back of a wooden spoon so that their excess moisture evaporates in the heat of the pan.
5. Transfer the bean mix to a bowl then stir in the flour and ground almonds and mix well to combine everything together.
6. Gently fold in the rest of the ingredients and check for seasoning, adding a little salt, if needed, or more chillies, if you like.
Feta and Black Bean Burger ixture7. When the mixture is cool enough to handle, form the mixture into 12 burgers (I scoop the ingredients into a 1/4 cup, turn and tap to release, and then gently flatten).
Feta and Black Bean Burgers8. Bake the burgers in the oven for about 40-50 minutes until crisp on the outside and golden brown, turning them over halfway through the cooking time.
9. Serve with salad or stir-fried veggies.
* I find they turn out a little dry, so will omit the flour next time or add something more saucy! Let me know if you have any ideas…

Lentil and Walnut Burgers
Adapted from Whole Foods Market

Lentil and Walnut Burgers
And finally, I made these earthy Lentil and Walnut Burgers. These are a little more filling as they contain brown rice and they have a nice crunch thanks to the walnuts.

Lentil and Walnut Burgers ingredients1 tbsp coconut oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 cup button mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4-1/2 tsp dried chilli, to taste
2 cups cooked brown rice (I use basmati), divide into two separate cups
1 1/2 cups cooked lentils, or 1 (15oz) can lentils, rinsed and drained
1 egg
1 bunch coriander (or as per original recipe, parsley), finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas mark 4.
2. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.
3. Add onion and cook until soft.
4. Add carrot, mushrooms, , thyme, dried chilli and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes; transfer to a large bowl.
6. In a food processor, purée 1 cup rice, lentils and egg until smooth.
7. Transfer to bowl with vegetables, add walnuts, coriander and remaining 1 cup rice and stir to combine.
8. Season with salt and pepper.
Lentil and Walnut Burger mixture
9. When the mixture has cooled enough to handle, form into 12-16 burgers (I scoop the ingredients into a 1/4 cup, turn and tap to release, and then gently flatten).
Lentil and Walnut Burgers10. Bake the burgers in the oven for about 40-50 minutes until crisp on the outside and golden brown, turning them over halfway through the cooking time.
NB: I find they turn out a little dry and crumbly, so will chop up the veggies more finely next time, and maybe add a little passata! Let me know if you have any ideas…

So there we have it, my freezer is now nicely stocked with a yummy choice of healthy burgers to enjoy over the next few weeks.


Day 86: Carrot and squash soup

Being grateful for warming winter soups:

One of my favourite things about winter – and there’s not too many things on the list, to be honest – is a bowl of hot comforting soup.

It really is happiness in a bowl.

And I love how easy they are to make. And how little energy goes into making one. And how you can make a few portions to freeze and enjoy over the coming weeks. Result!

As my energy levels are still so very low at the mo, a soup was the perfect thing to make today.

As I peered into the fridge, I spotted a lonely looking butternut squash and big bag of juicy carrots just waiting to be used. So I decided to freestyle and make something up, which is another reason why I love making soups – you can play with the ingredients and it’s hard to go wrong really.

I roasted the squash and carrots in coconut oil, with a sprinkling of dried chillies, garlic, salt and pepper. Once cooked, I popped them into the blender along with some stock and fresh coriander. And after a minute or two, I was rewarded a thick, tasty soup.

How easy is that!

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful for warming winter soups.

Carrot and Squash Soup with a kick

1 butternut squash
6 carrots
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 tsp dried chillies
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 litre stock (I used half chicken, half vegetable)
big handful of fresh coriander (I used 15-20g)
salt and pepper

1. Cut squash in half (with the skin still on) and chop the carrots into chucks and rub with coconut oil
2. Put onto baking tray and sprinkle with chillies, garlic, salt and pepper
3. Roast in oven at Gas Mark 4 for 90 mins, or until cooked
4. When cooled a little, scoop out the cooked squash and put into blender along with the carrots and coriander
5. Add half the stock and blend until nice and smooth
6. Slowly add more stock until you have the desired consistency, I prefer my soups on the thicker side so used 1 litre, you may want to add more if you prefer
7. Pour into a bowl and enjoy

NB This made 5 portions and I popped the rest in the freezer to enjoy over the next few weeks

Day 43: Broccoli Soup

Being grateful for the best homemade soup EVER:

As the weather turns autumnal, my tummy is starting to crave soups.

Being a sunshine girl, I dread the summer drawing to a close. But one of the things I do look forward to in the colder months is delicious homemade soups.

I find there’s nothing quite like a steaming bowl of goodness to warm me up and lift my spirits; it’s the ultimate healthy comfort food.

A friend forwarded me Donna Hay’s recipe for Broccoli and Lemon Soup and after slightly adapting it to my tastes and preferences, it has become a firm favourite. My mum’s quite partial to it too.

I think adding the lemon at the end is a stroke of genius from Ms Hay, as it brightens up the flavours. And adding a swirl of yoghurt delivers a refreshing tang, completing the yummy factor.

So with this in mind, my happy for today is being grateful for the best homemade broccoli soup EVER.


The Best Broccoli Soup EVER

broccoli soup trio

1 tbsp coconut oil or 50g butter
1 leek, rinsed and sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed or chopped
1 head broccoli, chopped (including stalk)
1 Litre vegetable stock, or chicken broth
100g baby spinach leaves, washed
½ lemon, or to taste
2 tbsp coconut yoghurt, or to taste (optional – can use natural greek or natural yoghurt if preferred)
Handful almond slivers, lightly toasted in frying pan (optional)
Olive oil, to drizzle on top (optional)

1. Melt oil/butter in medium saucepan
2. Add garlic and leek and cook for around 5 mins, until leek is tender
3. Add broccoli and stock, bring to boil and cook for 8-10 mins, until broccoli is tender
4. Add spinach and let the soup cool for a little while
5. Use a hand blender or carefully blend in a blender until smooth (stop here if you wish to freeze)
6. Stir in lemon
7. Season to taste
8. Ladle into bowls and top with yoghurt and almonds, and drizzle olive oil
9. Eat and enjoy!

NB  Makes 4-5 portions. Can be frozen at Step 5, before adding lemon, yoghurt and almonds.

Helen’s Cauli-based Pizza

Helen’s Cauli-based Pizza:

When I first heard about using cauliflower as a base for pizza, I didn’t believe that it would work.

But oh boy was I wrong.

It’s so simple to make and so delicious to eat, this is a winner.

Helen’s Cauli-based Pizza
Makes 2 portions

Cauliflower Pizza
Half head of cauliflower, grated – around 250g
50g ground almonds (I’ve also made it to great success without)
1 egg, beaten
salt and pepper
1 tsp coconut oil for greasing

2 tbsp pesto
200g mozzarella
4 broccolini
4 asparagus

1. Grate the cauliflower into rice-size pieces, a food processor can do the job in seconds
2. Place into a bowl and stir in ground almonds
3. Mix in the egg
4. Season with salt and pepper
5. Line a baking tray with baking paper, and lightly grease with coconut oil (the base can sometimes stick)
6. Place ‘dough’ mixture onto tray and flatten with the back of a spoon or use your hands into desired pizza shape. I aim for around 5mm thick
7. Bake in oven Gas Mark 6 (200°C/400°F) for 20 mins, or until the base starts to go brown
8. Spread pesto all over the base and add desired toppings
9. Place back in the oven for another 15 mins, or until cheese has melted
10.Serve with a green salad and tuck in

Alternative toppings:
Get creative and use whatever you fancy. I prefer to have a sauce spread over the base, so you could also try tomato puree instead of pesto. Other favourite topping combinations include mozzarella, pepperoni and mushrooms; mozzarella, capers and olives; Palma ham, rocket and parmesan shavings.

(See Day 29 for more cauliflower musings)

Coconut Cashew Ice Cream

Coconut Cashew Ice Cream:

I adore ice cream and it’s been one of the hardest sweet treats for me to give up when I realised that sugar is not my friend. However, as I try to live by the 80-20% rule, I do occasionally indulge in the odd Magnum, or a little tub of deliciousness when I’m at the cinema.

Then I discovered that raw dairy and sugar-free ice cream can taste really amazing as demonstrated by the fabulous Booja Booja range. I set out to make my own (see Day 23).

I found this recipe on Appetite Affliction and have adapted it slightly to suit my own tastes.

As it uses cashews, it is a little expensive, and it’s also pretty labour intensive. But the end result and satisfaction from tucking into handmade ice cream makes it all worth it.

Coconut Cashew Ice Cream
Makes approx. 750ml

coconut cashew ice cream

400g coconut milk (use a good quality one without preservatives if possible)
350g raw unsalted cashews (soaked overnight in water)
40g desiccated coconut (optional)
4-8 tbsp liquid sugar alternative, according to taste  (I use Rice Syrup)
2 tsp vanilla extract or powder

1. Blend all ingredients together in a high-speed blender until smooth. I give it about two minutes
2. Pour into shallow, freezer friendly, 1 litre container with a lid, or use cling film and foil, making sure it’s air-tight
3. Stir/mix with a fork every 30 minutes for six hours, making sure you get right into the corners to agitate all the mixture
4. For ease of eating and storage, I transferred the ice cream into individual serving pots with lids
5. Leave in the freezer overnight (8 hours+)
6. Make sure you take out of freezer a good 15-30 minutes before eating
7. Eat and enjoy!

NB I teamed my ice cream up with Flourless Chocolate Cupcakes by Teresa Cutter. Yum! Yum!

Helen’s Chocolate Bliss Balls

Helen’s Chocolate Bliss Balls:

I always keep a batch of my Bliss Balls in the freezer for when I have a sweet craving.

A delicious and nutritious snack, these beauties are sugar, dairy and wheat-free, and are packed with protein and good fats.

Perfect for those three o’clock munchies, they are also a great energy booster: bonus!

I’ve played a lot with my recipe over the years, but the one below is my staple. I sometimes add in 1 tbsp of almond butter, or 1 tbsp of maca powder, or even a couple of tbsps of juice pulp, just for fun.

Why not have a play and get creative too.  And if you do, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below…

Helen's Chocolate Bliss Balls

3 handfuls of nuts (I use mixed nuts – almonds, cashews, brazils, wholenuts – but use whatever you fancy, except peanuts)
2 handfuls of seeds (again, whatever you fancy. I use a salad seed mix which includes sunflower, pumpkin, linseed/flax, sesame)
2 tbsp cacao powder
1 tbsp spiralina/barley greens/super greens (optional)
1 tsp cinnamon
10 dates – de-stoned and soaked in water for an hour
3 tbsp coconut oil (or enough to make mixture slightly moist)
1 tsp sugar alternative (I use rice syrup but you could use honey/maple syrup etc)
Few drops vanilla essence/1 tsp vanilla powder
Desiccated coconut to roll balls in

Food processor method:
Simply blitz all dry ingredients together. Add wet ingredients and blitz until well mixed. Go to step 6.

By hand method:
1. Chop nuts into smaller pieces
2. Put in bowl and stir in all other dry ingredients
3. Chop dates into small pieces and add to mixture, making sure they don’t clump together
4. Gently heat coconut oil, if needed, so it becomes a liquid
5. Add to dry mixture with honey and vanilla essence and stir well
6. Roll into small balls and roll in coconut, lay out onto tray lined with greaseproof paper
7. Pop into fridge to set for a couple of hours. They also keep well in freezer, just give them half an hour to defrost a little before eating
8. Eat and enjoy!

See Day 15 for my post about my Chocolate Bliss Balls…