butternut squash soup (vegan, paleo, grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free)

I think I’ve just about had enough of summer. The soft, juicy peaches are losing their perfectly ripe touch and fresh baby spinach is becoming tougher, hardier, and more bitter. Thoughts of frost-encrusted leaves crunching underneath my warm, fuzzy boots on crisp mornings are flooding my mind, and this warming, spiced bowl of autumn is making me want the season to change more than anything.

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There’s almost nothing I love more than steaming hot, filling soup which streams down your insides as you slurp it up. This rich, creamy, tangerine-hued soup ticks all my boxes and is one of my ultimate favourites. Mellow, thick butternut squash with just a few other ingredients makes for an easy, simple, yet complex meal. Laced with a swirl of coconut milk sour cream, it’s out of this world.

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Orange is so next season.

butternut squash soup

by Alessandra Peters

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, cubed
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Instructions

1. Place all of the vegetables in a large pot, then cover with vegetable stock.

2. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, add the lid of the pan, and simmer on medium low for 40 minutes.

3. Blend in a blender or with a stick blender, season, and serve hot.

4. Enjoy!

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spinach falafel with vegan tzatziki (vegan, paleo, grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free)

I’m so sad that long, lazy summer days have passed, yet I’m inexplicably happy to be back to normal life.

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I miss days of kitchen experiments and hours of recipe developing, photographing, and testing (I think we can all infer what the latter entails..), but I’m enjoying learning new things, meeting new people, and experiencing new experiences. Granted, I’m not thrilled about the mounds of homework nor the sentence ‘welcome to high school, this is where your grades start counting!’, but hearing colloquialisms being thrown around in the hallways and the world being back to ‘normal’ is definitely something I take for granted far too much.

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This past week was my first week back at school for over 18 months. For the first time, I felt well enough to go to school, to enjoy it, and I cannot express how happy that makes me. I used to take the simple act of being able to go to school for granted; I know that there are so many of the 7 billion people in the world who don’t have the privilege of education, and it hit me this week that I am so lucky to be one of the ones who do. I am so lucky to attend a top international school, to have lived all over the world, to have food on my plate at every meal. I am so lucky.

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Satisfyingly course, this falafel recipe was the result of many a crumbly, gummy, and simply horrible falafel failures.  A crispy, crunchy outside encases a vibrantly spiced filling of earthy chickpeas, fresh baby spinach, and a streak of the Middle East. Eaten hot with a drizzle of tzatziki lying on a bed of hummus, it’s probably one of the best falafels I have ever eaten. Creamy, cooling and garlicky, the tzatziki brings me back to making it alongside a short Qatari man, laughter lines engraved in the nooks and crannies of his face, telling me to ‘squish! squish!’ the cucumber. These are my favourite types of recipes – ones that aren’t just great, but better than the originals.

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Don’t forget to serve with a healthy dose of ‘call the doctor, I falafel!’

I had to.

spinach falafel with vegan tzatziki

by Alessandra Peters

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients (serves 4)

    For the Falafel

    • 4 cups baby spinach, washed
    • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed
    • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
    • 2 tbsp tahini
    • 2 tbsp lemon juice
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt
    • 2 tbsp potato starch
    • 5 tablespoons olive oil, for cooking

    For the Tzatziki

    • 1 can full-fat coconut milk, chilled for at least 24 hours
    • 3 tbs lemon juice
    • half an English cucumber, diced
    • a handful each of dill and parsley

    Instructions

    For the Falafel

    1. In a food processor, combine spinach, chickpeas, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, cumin, and salt & pepper until well combined.

    2. Add in the potato starch, then blitz again until well combined.

    3. Using a small ice cream scoop, scoop out balls of the mixture on to a baking tray and put in the fridge for ten minutes.

    4. Pour the olive oil in to a large frying pan and set the heat to medium. Let it heat up, and when the ten minutes have passed, gently flatten the falafel balls with your hand before sliding them in to the hot oil. Watch out!

    5. Cook, four at a time, until golden brown, 1-2 minutes. Flip and cook for another minute or so or until golden.

    6. Serve hot with tzatziki and hummus if desired! Enjoy!

    For the Tzatziki

    1. Take the can out of the fridge, open it using a can opener, and scoop out the solid white cream from the top. Set aside the clear coconut water to use later (I love mine in smoothies!).

    2. In a bowl, combine the coconut cream, lemon juice, and a good pinch each of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

    3. In a separate bowl, squash the cucumber with your hands. Keep squashing it until it has released liquid, about 20 seconds, and is quite mushy.

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    watermelon cucumber lime juice (paleo, vegan, grain-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free, healthy)

    I’m sure you have all read a load of obligatory summer watermelon posts in the last few months, but this cool, refreshing medley of sweet, juicy watermelon, fresh, slightly tart cucumber and zingy lime really is something else.

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    People often ask me what the best things about being an expat are. Often, I (half) joke ‘the food’. Today, on the day of the new student orientation activities, I realised that there is so much more. Being reunited with unexpected friends from a previous school, buried deep in the memories of sand boxes and the ABC, the familiar pause after the vital ‘so, where are you from?’, and the first conversations with someone who could mean the world to you in just a few short months. Life is bustling, and even though we are all from completely different corners of the globe, we are the same.

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    Because we all love watermelon juice, obviously! Sweet, refreshing watermelon whose ruby-red juices drip down your chin as you frantically stuff it in to your mouth swirled with cool, pastel green cucumber juice and an adventurous, impulsive twist of daring, electric lime juice. Quirky yet familiar, sweet yet zingy, and no harder to throw together than a glass of sickly sweet, preservative-loaded, artificially coloured soda, it’s become my go-to recipe for a bright, refreshing drink. Simply blend, strain, and enjoy!

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    Enjoying it in a fancy glass with a shmancy lime wedge whilst imagining Caribbean beaches doesn’t hurt either…

    watermelon cucumber lime juice

    by Alessandra Peters

    Prep Time: 10 minutes

    Ingredients (serves 2)

    • 4 cups diced watermelon
    • 1 cup diced cucumber, peeled
    • juice of 1 lime
    • lime wedges, to serve

    Instructions

    1. Blend together all ingredients except lime wedges in a blender.

    2. Sieve the mixture to get rid of any fruit pulp (I like to use the pulp in smoothies) so that you are left with just the juices.

    3. Serve in a fancy glass with a lime wedge and enjoy!

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    spiced oven-dried apple chips (vegan, paleo, grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free, healthy)

    I know; it’s most likely scorching hot outside and I’m here with a recipe for spiced oven-dried apples.

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    Summer days are fleeting and the chill of winter is starting to tiptoe around my feet – last night, for the first time in months, I felt the need for an extra blanket warming me up at night, and this morning was no different as I pulled my jacket from underneath the towering ‘winter’ pile. But somewhere in my heart, hidden underneath the gloom and darkness of cold winter days, lies my love of warm, cozy evenings fragranced with earthy, aromatic spices.

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    Crisp, sweet, fresh paper-thin slices of apple are rubbed lovingly with a mixture of sweet, warm cinnamon, bold, nutty cloves, and potent, complex star anise. Perpetual complexity and depth coat the dried, luxuriously chewy apple to make these wonderfully simple, unassuming snacks which hide a fragrant kick.

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    On the bright side, winter also means celebration, love, and family. It means appreciation, great food, and laughter. Speaking of.. I was given my Christmas present early this year! Very early – yesterday, in fact. I’m absolutely over the moon to announce that I’m now the proud owner of a Vitamix! I think a spiced apple chip party is called for.

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    And yes, my lovely new blender has a name. That’s normal, right?

    Note:  I’ve used crisp Pink Lady apples as well as tart Granny Smith apples, and both worked wonderfully! If you’re taking part in the 21DSD, one fifth of this recipe using Granny Smiths (about 10 chips) would count as your daily natural fruit sugar.

    spiced oven-dried apple chips

    by Alessandra Peters

    Prep Time: 10 minutes

    Cook Time: 7 hours

    Ingredients (about 50 chips)

    • 4 large apples
    • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 tablespoon ground star anise
    • 1/2 tablespoon ground cloves

    Instructions

    1. Preheat your oven to 175F or 90C.

    2. Wash and core all of the apples. Using a mandoline or a sharp knife, cut the apples in to 1/8 inch (1/4 cm) slices. I then cut all of the slices in half, but it’s up to you whether you prefer the whole slices or half slices.

    3. Spread the slices out on baking trays, taking care to not overcrowd the trays. In a small bowl, mix together the spices until combined. With either a large paintbrush or your finger, rub the spice mixture on one side of each apple slice.

    4. Bake in the oven for around 4 hours or until the top has crisped and the bottoms are still a bit chewy. If you like your apple chips crispier, simply bake a little longer, and if you like them chewier, bake them for about three hours.

    5. Once they have finished baking, turn off the oven and leave them in the oven for another 3-4 hours or overnight (I like to start baking at around 5pm, turn the oven off before I go to bed, and let them dry overnight).

    6. Store in an airtight container – the longest they have stayed around in my house has been around a week when I made a gigantic – I’m talking quadruple recipe – batch, but I would imagine they would stay just fine for anywhere up to about three weeks.

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    healthy snickers ice cream bars (vegan, paleo, grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, refined sugar-free)

    I’m not going to lie to you.

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    Most days, I would take my favourite green smoothie, full of green goodness and vitamins, over anything remotely processed without hesitation. But some days? Well, sometimes you just need a little creamy vanilla ice cream topped with smooth peanut butter and a sprinkle of crunchy chopped peanuts, all covered in chocolate, in your life. These bars are seriously good.

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    It’s a week until school starts again today, and I feel enervated just thinking about it. It’s been such a beautiful summer spent with those closest to me doing what I love most, and just the thought of getting up at too early an hour to even speak of makes me want to prolong summer for a few more years. I mean, what am I going to do when there’s no immediate access to healthy snickers ice cream bars if I’m feeling peckish?

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    Exactly. I know the title of this post is quite the oxymoron, but I’m almost positive that this is the healthiest frosty, rich vanilla-speckled ice cream slathered in soft, rich peanut butter and a myriad of peanut pieces dipped in deep, dark chocolate will ever be. The timid sweetness of the coconut milk vanilla ice cream and the powerful, daring punch of peanuts work so well huddled together under the shell of pleasantly cold and crunchy chocolate. Agave nectar gives the ice cream a touch of caramel-ish sweetness which ties everything together beautifully. Tantalising flavours swirl together to recreate that very familiar taste – you won’t even know it’s healthy. Promise.

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    I mean, who could resist that?! Sorry I’m not sorry.

    healthy snickers ice cream bars (SCD, GAPS, candida diet, anti-candida diet, 21DSD)

    by Alessandra Peters

    Prep Time: 30 minutes (+ 3 hours chilling

     

    Ingredients (makes 8 bars)

      For the Ice Cream

      • 1 can full fat coconut milk
      • 2 tablespoons agave nectar
      • 3 teaspoons vanilla bean paste or 2 whole vanilla beans, seeds only

      For the Peanut Layer

      • 5 tablespoons natural peanut butter, warmed until soft and gooey
      • a handful of unsalted peanuts, roughly chopped

      For the Chocolate Layer

      • 12 ounces dark chocolate, melted
      • 1 teaspoons coconut oil, melted

      Instructions

      1. To make the ice cream, place all ingredients in to a bowl and whisk until well combined. If you have an ice cream maker, set it to ‘soft serve’ and make the ice cream. If you don’t, simply pour the mixture in to an 8×8 inch dish lined with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 3 hours. If using the ice cream maker, scoop the ice cream into an 8×8 inch dish lined with plastic wrap when it is done and freeze for at least an hour.

      2. Take the ice cream out of the freezer. Spread your melted peanut butter over the ice cream in an even layer then sprinkle with the chopped peanuts. Put back in to the freezer for another 10-15 minutes. Take it out again and lift the mixture out of the dish. Unwrap the block of ice cream, then carefully cut it in half horizontally. Cut into four vertically to make eight equally sized bars.

      3. Refreeze these bars while you prepare your chocolate! I like to melt mine over a double boiler, watching carefully to ensure it doesn’t burn. Add the coconut oil once the chocolate has melted completely. Make sure that you have a prepared baking tray lined with baking paper to place the dipped bars on, then take the bars out of the freezer.

      4. Dip the bars in to the chocolate quickly, turning the bar round so that it gets an even layer of chocolate. Place on to the prepared tray, then repeat until all the bars are dipped. Once the chocolate has hardened, you can either place all of the bars in to an airtight container or wrap them in waxed paper individually to store. Re-freeze until ready to serve

      5. To serve, take the bars out of the fridge and let them defrost in the fridge for 15-20 minutes. This way, the ice cream softens slightly so that they’re easier to eat! Enjoy!

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      banana passion fruit sorbet (vegan, Paleo, gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free, soy-free)

      Nothing says summer like sorbet. Sticky, messy, deliciously cold, and healthy banana passion fruit sorbet.

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      People say that fire is humanity’s greatest invention. But when it’s blisteringly hot outside, I dissent;  it’s got to be the freezer. I mean, it has to take one pretty wonderful invention to turn a few spotty bananas and some wrinkly tropical fruit in to this creamy, frigid, slightly sweet ice cream dotted with intensely tangy seeds encased by an orange gel which burst under the pressure of teeth crunching down on them.

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      I first came across passion fruit sorbet about a year ago in Indonesia. The wrinkly, purple outsides of the South American tropical fruit had never intrigued me before then, but when I tentatively licked the sorbet which was served as dessert that night, it was love at first taste. Tart yet sweet, sharp yet complex; I was hooked. I may or may not have eaten about thirty of the fragrant fruits in the first week I was at home, sprinkled with a light touch of raw cane sugar or the gelatinous small orange and black seeds scooped into my morning yoghurt. This sorbet captures its taste perfectly, and the sweet, creamy banana balances it out wonderfully to create a blend of flavours so intense yet so simple.

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      I could live with this sorbet being my 5-a-day for a while; after all, it is healthy…

       

      banana passion fruit sorbet

      by Alessandra Peters

      Prep Time: 20 minutes (4 hours chilling time)

      Ingredients (serves 4)

      • 3 ripe passion fruit
      • 2 overripe spotty black bananas

      Instructions

      1. Peel the bananas, then cut them in to 1-inch pieces. Freeze for about 4 hours or until almost solid.

      2. Using a food processor, whizz the frozen banana chunks until they start to become grainy. Scrape down the sides, then process again, until the mixture starts to form a lump. Scrape down the sides again, then keep blending and scraping until it suddenly becomes a creamy, soft-serve like texture.

      3. Transfer the banana sorbet to a bowl. Cut the three passionfruit in half and scoop the seeds of two of them into the bowl along with the banana sorbet. Reserve the pulp of the third passionfruit and place aside for garnish. Remember to keep the halves if you want to serve the sorbet in them!

      4. Mix in the passion fruit, then pop in the freezer for another 10-15 minutes before serving. To serve, scoop large balls of the sorbet in to the empty passion fruit shells (or, if you prefer, a glass or bowl). Divide the leftover passion fruit pulp over the sorbet servings, then serve!

      5. Enjoy!

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      lemon sesame kale chips with coconut milk sour cream (vegan, paleo, grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, refined sugar-free)

      Hi, I’m Alessandra and I’m addicted to lemon sesame kale chips.

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      Particularly these golden crispy, nutty, satisfyingly crunchy nuggets of pure and utter flavour with the zesty whiff of sparky, spunky citrus dipped in a creamy, thick, rich, tart dip. Seriously, these are good. When I was growing up, lemons were always the only constant in our bustling fridge; in the humid, warm climate of the Middle East, lemons were abundant and their bright, cheery hues could be seen on every street corner.

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      I remember chomping on handfuls of ‘bird seeds’ at a time, convinced that the pale, nutty seeds would send me flying in to the air squealing with joy at any moment. It may be a decade later, a few countries further, and I certainly don’t refer to sesame seeds as ‘bird seeds’ any more, but that’s not to say I didn’t find myself concealing a joyful squeal when I tasted them with the deep, earthy flavour of kale.

      Screen Shot 2013-08-04 at 19.03.44And, dear reader, the coconut milk sour cream – oh my. Sweet and creamy from the gloriously thick coconut cream hidden in the depths of a chilled coconut can, and tantalisingly tangy from the fragrant, acidic lemon juice. It fits so perfectly with the lemon & sesame kale chips, but I can only imagine what else this would be perfect addition to. Sour cream is one of those intriguing magical ingredients which can completely change a meal but which tastes quite, well, abhorrent on its own. Vanilla extract, anyone? The tangy taste seems to intensify every other flavour in a dish without stealing the limelight; certainly an underrated fridge necessity. Drizzled, dipped, or eaten by the spoon, you need it in your life.

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      It is an axiom of making kale chips that you are allowed to eat at least half the batch in the process, right? Right. Enjoy!

      lemon sesame kale chips with coconut milk sour cream (SCD, GAPS, candida diet, Palaeolithic, Primal)

      by Alessandra Peters

      Prep Time: 15 minutes

      Cook Time: 25 minutes

      Ingredients (serves 4)

        For the Kale Chips

        • 200g curly kale, washed, dried, and cut into bite-sized pieces
        • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
        • 4 tablespoons sesame seeds
        • zest of 1 lemon
        • juice of 1/2 lemon
        • sea salt, to taste

        For the Coconut Milk Sour Cream

        • 1 can coconut milk, refrigerated for at least 12 hours
        • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
        • sea salt, to taste

        Instructions

        For the Kale Chips

        1. Preheat the oven to 120C/240F.

        2. Place the kale into a large bowl and toss it thoroughly with the olive oil, sesame seeds, lemon juice, and a good pinch of sea salt.

        3. Spread the kale on a large baking sheet. It shrinks as it cooks, so it’s okay to not have it in a single layer.

        4. Zest the lemon over the tray of kale.

        5. Bake for 20-25 minutes, tossing halfway through, until crispy.

        For the Coconut Milk Sour Cream

        1. Turn your cold can of coconut milk over and, using a can opener, open the tin from the bottom. Set aside the coconut water to use another time (it’s great in smoothies!), then scoop out the white coconut cream at the bottom of the can.

        2. Add the lemon juice to the coconut cream and stir to combine. Add salt to taste, then leave in the fridge for 15-20 minutes in order for the flavours to meld.

        To serve: Put the kale chips on a large plate and serve with fresh lemon wedges and coconut milk sour cream. Enjoy!

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