RECIPE: Creamy pesto gnocchi with green vegetables

My mum has been asking for my creamy pesto sauce recipe. She said ” you should just put it on your blog as I’m sure others would want the recipe too”.

I’m not sure if that’s actually the case, but if anyone else other than my mother wants this recipe, here it is ūüėČ

Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS

  • 70g butter (approx 3.5 tablespoons)
  • 3 tablespoons plain flour (wholemeal flour is fine to use)
  • 1.5 cups skim milk
  • 1 small jar basil pesto (approx 120g). If you want to make pesto paste from scratch, see my recipe here.
  • 2 x 400g packs of gnocchi (or use a 500g of any pasta)
  • 2 cups of blanched green veggies such as zucchini, broccoli, green beans and peas.

METHOD

  1. Firstly, cook the gnocchi/pasta.
  2. Place butter in a pot on medium heat. Let it melt and then add in the flour. Whisk until a thick paste is formed.
  3. Slowly whisk in the milk. Continue to whisk until milk is brought to the boil (you may need to bring the heat up higher, but not too high or the milk will burn to the bottom of the pot!).
  4. Once the sauce comes to the boil, turn the heat down to low and continue to whisk until thickens.
  5. Once thick, take off the heat. Mix in the pesto – give it a good stir.
  6. In one large pot, combine the cooked gnocchi, creamy sauce and blanched green vegetables. Mix all ingredients together well.
  7. Serve and enjoy!

 

– Jenna

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Time flies when you’re in your mid-twenties

Last week I had my 26th birthday – which means¬†it has been a whole year since I moved back to Melbourne. I just can’t believe how time flies.

These days I have been busy but still very much enjoying life (with the exception of a cold that just hung around way too long).

A year on in my current job and I am loving it. There are so many areas of dietetics to dabble in and learn about – I just can’t see myself getting sick of clinical dietetics.

My weekends since an adventurous April with James have been less about adventuring outside of the city and more about staying in. A lot of that has to do with the weather which has cooled down dramatically in Melbourne. But we have been busy in the inner suburbs checking out some new brunch scenes around Melbourne amongst other things.

Little Henri cafe – Thornbury

Reading about cronuts while looking across the room at said cronuts at Rustica – Fitzroy

At home I have been making quite a few cream-based sauces to accompany my dishes. It must be the winter blues kicking in and I must admit, I have indulged on the creamy sauces a little too often (weekly) at home. I think it’s time to hold back now.

The sauce I make is the good old butter, flour and (skim) milk trick. Creamy pesto pasta with green beans and peas has been a favourite. And I have finally found a packaged pesto paste that I like from Terra Madre, Northcote. I previously disliked all packaged pesto and would only get my fix by slaving over the food processor to make my own. I am a little relieved to know that now I can have a jar in the pantry if needed.

I’m also enjoying warm roasted vegetable salads as I do every winter.

A recipe that I have made this chilly season, much like last year, is the Moroccan fish with orange salad by Healthy Food Guide. It would have to be one of my favourite autumn/winter recipes. I enjoy changing it up with the green veggie options, as well as the grain (works well with couscous, quinoa, brown rice etc).

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See my article in the Medibank Be magazine from last year on fresh produce that I love during the winter months.

Fitness-wise¬†I have finally returned to cheerleading after a long 14 month break and a dragged out injury. The comeback is proving harder than I thought at the ripe old age of 26. I now know why the elite gymnasts are in their peak at 16 years – a pulled hamstring every two weeks at 26 doesn’t make for a productive training schedule.

I can also say I am a regular swimmer now. I love the low impact sport (especially when battling with niggling muscle pains) and the feel of the water as I swim at a fast past on a keen day or a slow and steady pace on those days I just don’t feel like doing all that much. It is such an easy way to stay fit and a good excuse to wash my hair.

The colder weather has seen less of the hiking but I look forward to doing some small hikes on my upcoming trip to Washington state in the USA next month. I’ll blog about it the first chance I get.

Catch you all a little later in the season.

– Jenna

5 lunch ideas for the weekday worker

I started working as a dietitian nearly two years ago.

And less than two years in the workforce I am already struggling to think of lunch options for every day of the week.

Some days I find myself staring at the array of food options¬†from my workplace caf√© and I am not always impressed with the creamy pasta options. Or the soggy salads that don’t cater to my picky dressing preferences.

So being the good list-writer that I am, I decided to put together a collection of my favourite quick, easy and exciting lunch options to help keep the working week interesting.

Here are my top 5 picks…


 

  1. Not your typical sandwich

Sandwiches don’t have to be boring and dreaded. After all, isn’t your lunch break the best part of your day? Make sandwiches exciting with leftover roast meats, vegetables, falafel. Use hummus, smashed avocado or even light cream cheese as your butter or sauce alternative.  Even a thin layer of plum or cranberry jam can be a nice addition to a turkey and salad sandwich. Sandwiches don’t have to be boring. And if you’re workplace have a sandwich press; a hot toastie can completely change your lunch.

Roast vegetable and goats cheese toastie anyone?

  1. Tasting platter

Why not go gourmet every now and then? Enjoy a homemade tasting platter for a range of flavours and foods. Pita bread, olives, cheese, vegetable sticks, dip, crackers, dried fruit, unsalted nuts. Even make some mini egg and veggie frittatas in a muffin tin on lazy Sunday and freeze ‚Äď pull one out and pop on the tasting plate for a small serve of protein and vegetables in amongst your antipasto goodness.

  1. Salad jars

Glass jars aren’t only making a comeback for food photography purposes on instagram, but turns out they are also super practical.

The night before work, place all of your salad ingredients into a long, upright jar. Start by placing the wet ingredients such as salad dressing or lemon juice at the bottom of the jar, and stack your ingredients upward. Chickpeas or canned beans are great around the middle. Top the jar with those ingredients that are likely to go soggy quickly, for example the crisp lettuce and spinach leaves. When it comes time to serving up the next day at work, tip the contents of the jar out into a serving bowl. Chances are you don’t even need to toss the salad as the dressing drizzles down on the ingredients. Enjoy!

  1. Warm roast vegetable salad

Leftover vegetables from the Sunday roast? Step 1: Keep some single serve cup of 90 second microwaveable brown rice. Step 2: pack the vegetables in a container to take to work. Step 3: in a separate container place some fresh spinach leaves and a small serve of feta cheese. Step 4: at work, zap the roast vegetables in the microwave along with the microwaveable brown rice. Step 5: Throw everything into the same bowl, along with the fresh spinach leaves and crumbled feta cheese on top of the dish for a small hit of protein and calcium.

  1. Lazy leftovers

If you are lacking motivation to get creative with your lunches, just make more dinner the night before and pack leftovers! Portion out your lunch into a container when you are serving up your dinner meal with the family. This way no one will go back for seconds and accidentally eat your lunch. This is particularly great as the weather cools down and you want to enjoy a hot, sit down meal with your colleagues. The difference is, you prepared your meal so you know exactly what ingredients went into the dish. No hidden additions of extra butter, salt or cream, and prepped by yours truly.

When you make green curry and hope there are leftovers for the next day...

When you make green curry and hope there are leftovers for the next day…

Leftover baked salmon and veggies

Leftover baked salmon and veggies

Happy lunching!

– Jenna

 

Recipe feature on YEN online

My chicken pesto pasta recipe has been featured on the YEN magazine online lifestyle section.

YEN mag

The recipe book found on YEN online includes a whole heap of nutritious and yummy¬†recipes from Accredited Practising Dietitians to help begin the celebrations for Australia’s Healthy Weight Week which starts on the 16th of February!

Page 12 of the online recipe guide features my recipe, but be sure to check them all out for some great ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner. See the recipes here.

And don’t forget to join in on the festivities this Healthy Weight Week. Head to the¬†website for more info on how you can get involved.

– Jenna

RECIPE: Chicken pesto pasta

As promised on Thursday when I discussed my warm weather menu, here is the recipe for my chicken pesto pasta.

I have made a very simple basil pesto recipe Рfigured out that I am not a fan of including parmesan in the pesto and prefer to keep the recipe as basic as it gets. The pesto goes great with many foods, but lately I have been loving it with pasta and a serve of protein and veggies for a filling main meal.

– CHICKEN PESTO PASTA –

Serves: 3

Ingredients

For basil pesto

  • 1.5 – 2 cups (1 large bunch) fresh basil leaves
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil (I used Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

For chicken pesto pasta dish

  • 2 cups raw penne pasta (I used Vetta High Fibre range)
  • 5 chicken breasts, sliced into pieces
  • Canola/olive oil spray
  • 1 1/3 cups frozen peas
  • 60g smooth reduced fat feta cheese

Method

  1. To make basil pesto, place all pesto ingredients into a food processor and blend until a smooth paste is formed.
  2. Place pasta in pot with water and cook until al dente.
  3. While waiting for pasta to cook, spray a pan with canola/olive oil. Grill chicken breast pieces until cooked through. Remove from heat once cooked.
  4. Place frozen peas in a bowl and microwave for 2 minutes.
  5. Once pasta is cooked, strain water from pot and then place pasta back into the pot (turn heat off).
  6. Mix basil pesto into the pasta.

7.   Then mix in chicken pieces and peas.
8.   Split mixture into three separate bowls.
9.   Crumble feta on top to serve.
10. Enjoy!

As you can see, my secret ingredient is crumbled smooth feta on top to serve. Hardly a secret anyway as you can clearly see it sprinkled on top! Perfect addition to the meal in my opinion.

This¬†main meal contains high fibre grains, lean protein and a healthy serve of fat (EVOO from the pesto). Not to mention that it’s loaded up with fresh green herbs and includes an old family favourite – peas! … Well it was a favourite of mine.

Make extra and enjoy as leftovers the following day (hot or cold).

– Jenna

My warm weather menu

The days are now longer, the weather warmer and there is a clear shift in the style of foods I am preparing these days.

Check out some new foods on my warm weather¬†menu…

OATS

While the weather warms up, the season of hot porridge has sadly ended. Cafe’s around Melbourne are already taking porridge off their menu and replacing it with bircher and other Summer-friendly alternatives.

On the odd morning that I still feel like hot oats, porridge is on my personal breakfast menu. But mostly, I am making the switch to overnight oats Рa refrigerated alternative.

 

PASTA 

Now I’m not sure if I am being ridiculously stubborn and just going out of my way to prove a point, but at the moment I am loving my pasta!

What point am I proving? Carbs and grains are good people! 

Read Felicity Curtain’s wrap up of the benefits of grains here.

So how have I been enjoying my pasta? This past month I have perfected my homemade basil pesto recipe and have been enjoying a chicken pesto pasta dish with a secret ingredient.

Chicken pesto pasta recipe will be on my blog in the recipes section soon.

MANGOES

Hooray, finally it is mango season! Unfortunately mangoes are still a little pricey at supermarkets and grocers, although some select farmer’s markets are selling boxes of mangoes for just¬†$10! Mangoes will continue to get cheaper as they are coming into season, so enjoy the tropical taste in a range of ways.

I am loving my mango in the following ways:

  • Fresh mango slices with natural yoghurt
  • This simple chicken and mango salad recipe
  • Sliced mango on pancakes with shaved coconut and a drizzle of syrup
  • Homemade mango lassi (I am still perfecting my own recipe so watch this space!)
  • This lovely mango dressing that you can add to any salad or on top of grilled chicken breasts (I usually don’t include the balsamic vinegar though)

QUICK DINNERS ON THE BALCONY

I think Summer is all about making the most of the sunny evenings. So whether I am catching up with friends for an active walk before the sun goes down, or a late night ice cream catch up, I am more frequently in need of a quick go-to dinner before heading out the door. My favourite is poached eggs with sauteed spinach leaves on toast. Breakfast for dinner is the best kind of dinner in my opinion.


– SUPER SIMPLE OVERNIGHT OATS RECIPE –

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup wholegrain rolled oats
  • 1 cup low-fat natural yoghurt
  • Fresh fruit to top (e.g. sliced apple, strawberries or mango)

Method

  1. Mix into a bowl or jar the oats and half of the yoghurt. Store air-tight in fridge overnight.
  2. In morning when it’s time to eat, mix in the remainder of the yoghurt.
  3. Top with fresh fruit or sweet toppings.
  4. Enjoy!

Toppings can include:

  • Fresh strawberries and shaved coconut
  • Sliced apple and cinnamon
  • Sultanas and honey
  • Sliced banana and coconut sugar

What are your favourite food options now that the weather is warming up?

– Jenna

4 ways with Unsweetened Almond & Coconut Milk

While I am usually quite excited when shopping at the supermarket (sole reason being I am surrounded by food!), my excitement peaked the other day when I came across So Good’s Unsweetened Almond & Coconut milk.

coconut almond milk 4

I had such a fun few days enjoying this great tasting milk alternative in so many different ways.¬†But¬†before we get to the fun ways I used this product, let’s take a look at it’s nutrition content…

COMPARED TO¬†SKIM COW’S MILK

coconut almond milk 5

The unsweetened almond & coconut milk is clearly lower in energy, about half of the calories than in a glass of skim cow’s milk.

There is also a very big difference in each products macro-nutrient composition:

  • Cow’s milk higher in protein.
  • Unsweetened almond & coconut milk higher in total fat, fairly similar saturated fat contents though.
  • Cow’s milk higher in carbohydrate and sugars (due to the sugar found in cow’s milk called lactose).
  • Cow’s milk has nearly double the amount of calcium than the unsweetened almond & coconut milk. For myself I know I need 840mg of calcium per day – so I can always trust that a glass of cow’s milk can provide me with over a third of my daily calcium needs. Drinking a glass of this almond & coconut milk, however, will only provide me with about a fifth of my daily calcium requirements.

Overall for me when I am buying milk, I tend to look for high protein and high calcium content, which is much more superior in my good old skim cow’s milk. But I am all about moderation and I love to enjoy a variety of food products in my diet. So while I plan to mainly stick to my skim cow’s milk, from time to time you’ll see me enjoying a tasty and different milk alternative to experiment with in the kitchen.

EXPERIMENT IN THE KITCHEN?

Well I’m glad you’re curious… See¬†my simple and super yummy creations using the unsweetened¬†almond & coconut milk.

1. Chia Pudding

coconut almond milk 1

Check out the recipe here.

2. Baked coconut and banana oats

coconut almond milk 2

Rolled oats, milk, mashed banana, and a pinch of baking powder. Topped with coconut and granola.

3. Almond & coconut milk with cereal

Hints of almond and coconut with my current favourite cereal Kellogg’s Special K Nourish.

4. Berry Smoothie Bowl

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Frozen berries, yoghurt, honey and unsweetened almond & coconut milk blended together. Topped with chia seeds, shredded coconut and caramelised buckinis.


 

For more information on alternative products to your typical cow’s milk, have a look at my two-part guest article over at the Eat Sleep Dream Love Food blog where I researched different milk products on the market:

– Jenna

RECIPE: Chia Pudding

Fancy making your own chia pudding? Try this recipe out…

coconut almond milk 1

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons chia seeds
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons shredded coconut
  • 1 cup So Good unsweetened coconut & almond milk
  • Chopped fresh fruit to serve

Method:

  • Put chia seeds, brown sugar and shredded coconut in a jar or container.
  • Add milk and mix all ingredients together then put lid on jar/container.
  • Place in fridge overnight or for at least 3-4 hours.
  • After 3-4 hours, or when ready to eat, mix pudding once more.
  • Top with fresh chopped fruit and enjoy!

Prefer to leave the pudding making to the experts? Give chia pods a try.

– Jenna

It’s Smoothie Season

It’s Spring, it’s sunny (mostly), the weather is warming up¬†and there is great fresh produce coming into season. This means it’s Smoothie Season!

Here are some smoothie combos I have recently tried.


 

Peanut Butter Smoothie

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Ingredients:

  • 200ml unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • 2 teaspoons honey/syrup (I used coconut syrup)

This smoothie was inspired by a fantastic cafe I regularly visited during my Canberra days, Double Shot. Their inspirational PB smoothie is pictured below…

double shot pb smoothie


 

Banana & Cinnamon Smoothie

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It’s green but it ain’t mean. While you can’t go past it’s appearance, I must point out that you can’t taste anything but the sweet cinnamon and banana. I tried this one out and make my taste-tester close their eyes. They assumed it was a regular banana smoothie, sans green vegetables. Highly recommend if you have a sweet tooth but need to get in an extra serving of veggies!

Ingredients:

  • 200ml skim cow’s milk
  • 1 fresh banana
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 large handful fresh raw spinach

 Berry Super Smoothie

Wonder why it is a Super Smoothie? I used low fat plain Chobani yoghurt in my smoothie…. and we all know how great Chobani’s protein content is! This smoothie provided me with 17g protein – similar figures to what you would see in a protein shake. Only this was all natural and tasted a whole lot better than some powder mixed with water.

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup skim cow’s milk
  • 3/4 cup frozen mixed berries
  • 2 tablespoons low fat plain yoghurt
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon agave syrup

I also recommend giving this smoothie a go with coconut water in place of the milk. It’s really refreshing and perfect for those warm days!

This is also great as an ice-cream. Just reduce the amount of milk you put in to only 1/2 cup. If on the other hand you want your smoothie to be a little runnier, add a drop of water and continue to blend.


What is your favourite smoothie combo? Leave a comment below!

– Jenna