Clean Eating

Chocolate Chilli Overnight Oats

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I love overnight oats because they're quick and easy to make, are super versatile and you can take them on the go with you when you're pressed for time!

Now that the weather is cooling down I like to keep my internal body temperature warm by using ingredients that help keep my internal fire going. This recipe is filled with super boosted medicinal foods which support a healthy immune system to keep the seasonal colds at bay.

The use of cayenne pepper in this recipe is to activate the healing benefits of the turmeric while also making you feel all warm and tingly inside. Turmeric is a superfood root which is dried and powdered, the benefits of using it are numerous. For me the most important thing is that it reduces inflammation in the body. Inflammation is your body's response to injury which is great! However, our modern diets and lifestyles of eating highly processed sugars and dairy, drinking alcohol, feeling stressed etc can also cause inflammation in the body. Therefore by adding turmeric to our diets we can aid our bodies by reducing it's workload. It's not a cure all and it also helps to be more mindful of what we fuel our bodies with, both nutritionally and mentally.

Cacao is also a very powerful antioxidant, high in magnesium, which helps relax our muscles, hence why women crave chocolate when they are about to start their cycle. Please make sure that you use good quality raw cacao powder for this recipe as nutritionally it makes a big difference. Most cocoa powder you find in your local supermarket has been heated at very high temperatures which kills a lot of the nutrients. It is more expensive but a little goes a long way with so it's worth investing in some as it will last quite some time.

If you don't have all the ingredients don't worry, get creative and substitute some or leave others out. Or better yet why not try your hand at making your very own signature version?!

Ingredients
(Makes 1 large serving or 2 smaller servings)

  • 3 Tbs chia seeds
  • 3 Tbs rolled oats
  • 1 Tbs almond meal
  • 1 tsp cacao powder
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 Tbs goji berries
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 1/2 Tbs cacao nibs
  • 1/2 Tbs coconut flakes
  • 1.5 cup non dairy milk (I used sunflower seed milk)
  • Pinch of Himalayan pink salt

Method

Mix everything into a bowl or jar using a fork, making sure it's all well combined. Place in the fridge overnight or for a minimum of 15-20 minutes. Enjoy! *This will last in the fridge for 2-3 days.

Chickpea coconut curry with seasonal greens

This is a deliciously comforting meal to keep you warm in the winter months, my definition of comfort food. It is inspired by my  Iranian culture and travels to Sri Lanka & India. It's also 100% whole food plant based made with nothing but pure goodness. I've recently started an online course in plant based nutrition with the Center for Nutrtion Studies founded by Dr. T Colin Campbell and it is such a joy to enhance my knowledge of this lifestyle. It has also influenced my food choices, I'm eating more greens than usual and using a lot less fat. The studies in this field are absolutely incredible and it's so interesting to see how much research has been done in the field of plant based nutrition, especially in relation to chronic diseases. I would suggest reading Whole by Dr. Campbell or watching one of his many talks online if you're curious to know just how much our diet affects our health.

Anyhow moving on to the recipe!

The rice and tahdig, crispy Persian rice literally meaning bottom of the pot, are made in a rice cooker. I've found that this is the most foolproof, and fuss-free way of making it without burning the rice. However if you don't have a rice cooker you can also use a non stick pot, preferably a non toxic one like the ones Green Pan make. Follow the instructions to cook the rice as stated below, then when it comes to making the tahdig, make sure you cook the rice on low heat so that it doesn't burn. I admit this is quite an art and gets better with experience and much easier if you use a rice cooker!

The greens can easily be replaced with whatever is in season in your part of the world.

(Serves 6) *Use organic ingredients where possible

Curry

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 inch fresh turmeric, diced or 1/2 tablespoon turmeric powder
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, diced or1/2 tablespoon ginger powder
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 6 plum tomatoes or 3 vine tomatoes, diced
  • 1 kohlrabi, skinned & diced or 1 medium potato
  • 4 teaspoons coconut butter
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas, I used brown chickpeas
  • 4 mustard leaves, de-stemmed and chopped
  • 6 spinach leaves, chopped

Coconut Rice & Tahdig

  • 4 cups brown basmati rice
  • 2 cups dried shredded coconut (unsweetened, organic)
  • 8 cups water
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons melted coconut oil (or another high smoke point oil)

Coriander vegan "yoghurt"

  • 1 cup fresh coriander, leaves and stalks
  • 2 handfuls cashew nuts
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon Apple cidre vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes (optional)
  • Pinch of sea salt & black pepper 1/2 cup water

Method

1. Rinse the rice a couple times, strain and place in a rice cooker, add the 8 cups water, dried coconut and salt and leave to cook, approximately 30 mins.

*If you don't have a rice cooker please read the notes above.

2. While the rice cooks, add the tablespoon of coconut oil to a medium sized pot and on medium/high heat until the oil melts. Add the diced onion and let cook for a couple of minutes, then add the garlic, turmeric and curry powder, stir to combine let cook for 1 minute, until fragrant. Then add the diced tomatoes, reduce heat to medium/low and allowing the tomatoes to reduce for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Finally add the kohlrabi/potato, coconut butter, chickpeas, and enough water to cover the ingredients by half an inch or so. Turn up the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer for 15 minutes, uncovered.

3. Once the rice has cooked through, gently scoop the rice from the edges of the pot towards the middle to form a pyramid shape. Make 5-6 holes in the rice pyramid by gently poking the back of a spatula through to the bottom of the pot. Pour a small about of the melted coconut oil into each hole, and leave to cook for another 15-20 mins, this is how you get the crispy rice.

4. Add the chopped spinach and mustard leaves to the curry, cover the pot and let cook for 5 minutes, until wilted. Stir to combine, remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes or so to allow the flavours to settle.

5. In the meantime place all the "yoghurt" ingredients in a blender (I used my magic bullet), and blend until smooth. 6. Take most of the rice out the pot, except for the bottom layer touching the base of the pot, and using a wooden spatula gently cut and flip over the thin crispy bottom layer.

7. Serve up the dish and enjoy! **This will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days and usually tastes better the next day as the flavours infuse further.

Summertime Homemade Popsicles

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I know I haven't had the chance to post a recipe up on the blog for a while... We went away on a family holiday to Jordan & Dubai and as soon as I got back I went straight into weekly special orders, my first ever group cooking class, followed by lots of catering orders and few new exciting developments which I'll hopefully be able to write about soon :)

I've been practising yoga on the balcony recently as the weather is absolutely beautiful over here at the moment, and this recipe idea came to me on one hot morning! It was a lot hotter than usual and after I finished I was drenched in sweat, all I could think of was having a nice fruity popsicle. I rummaged around the cupboards and found my old popsicle moulds, reached for the few ingredients we had in the fridge and decided to make some mango, coconut milk, lime, and ginger popsicles.

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Mangos are very alkaline, which help balance the acidity in your body, they are also high in antioxidants which help protect the body against certain types of cancers.

Coconut milk has a multitude of benefits so here are a few, it's anti-bacterial, high in good fats, and iron, which is especially good for women.

Limes are an amazing source of vitamin C, they also help keep the body's blood sugar levels balanced, which is a good combination with mango as they are high in natural sugars.

Finally, I love ginger, not only does it add a nice depth of flavour but it's so good for you too! It helps reduce inflammation, aids in digestion & nausea and has also been linked to studies which have shown that it kills cancer cells.

So not only will this popsicle cool you down in the summer heat, but it will also be doing a lot of good to your body, in contrast to the sugar and chemical filled popsicles you can by at the shops! Again, if you don't have all the ingredients, try experimenting with what you have at home.

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Ingredients (makes 6)

1 medium ripe mango

1 frozen ripe banana

1/2 cup coconut milk/cream

Juice of 1 lime

1 knob of fresh ginger, peeled

Method

Scoop the flesh out of the mango, place in a blender along with all the other ingredients and pulse until you have a nice smooth consistency.

Fill the moulds with the thick mixture, tap the moulds on the counter to make sure the mixture has been evenly dispersed, then place in the freezer for 4 hours, or over night.

Enjoy!

Group Cooking Classes

I've been quite busy doing my weekly specials, catering, and a tending to a few exciting new developments! I haven't had much time to write up any new recipes, I'm hoping to get round to doing so at some point this week!

But for now, I just wanted to mention my group cooking classes. I hosted my first group cooking class earlier this month and the response was so great that I have decided to host two more before the end of the month!

Here's the flyer for more details xx

Group cooking classes 20th & 21st April 2015

Lemony Swiss Chard Soup

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Sometimes all you need is a big hearty bowl of soup, especially during the winter, and this is the one to try. Well it's not exactly freezing in Doha, it's about 20 degrees Celsius, which is cold compared to the scorching 50+ degrees in the summer months!

A lovely friend of mine, Lana, introduced me to a supermarket which stocks some pretty fresh produce from the Levant region, so I've been quite lucky recently with finding fruits and veggies I wouldn't normally have over here. The other day I came across some beautiful Lebanese Swiss Chard stalks just waiting for me to scoop them up! I bought them and they sat in the vegetable bowl on my kitchen counter for a few days as I debated between making dolma (stuffing them with a herbed rice) or soup. I finally decided soup would be the best option given the minimal prep required, and so I tried to recreate a recipe an old colleague had told me about a while back which sounded delicious. I didn't have all the ingredients but decided to work with what I had at home, I replaced potatoes with butternut squash and green lentils with black-eye peas, also fresh coriander with coriander powder. So work with which ever ingredients are easier to get your hands on. Either way, you will have a lovely warming bowl of soup to savour!

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Ingredients (serves 4-6)

  • 3 tbs coconut oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups black-eye peas, rinsed
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled and diced
  • 4 cups swiss chard, sliced
  • 2 tsp sumac powder himalayan pink salt (sea salt is fine too) & black pepper
  • 2 lemons
  • 2 tbs ghee (can be replaced with coconut oil for Vegans)
  • 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbs coriander powder

Method:

Heat the coconut oil in a large pot on medium - high heat. Then add the onions and sauté for a couple of minutes until they soften slightly. Stir in the black-eye peas and pour in the vegetable stock. Bring the broth to a boil and add the butternut squash, swiss chard. Season with sumac, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Turn the heat down and let simmer, covered, until the squash and peas are cooked, approximately 20-25 mins. While you're waiting for the soup to cook, heat the ghee in a small pan over medium heat. Add the thinly sliced garlic and cook for about a minute, then stir in the coriander powder, and remove from heat once the aromas start being released, about 30/40 seconds. Once the peas and squash are nearly done, add the garlic and coriander,and cook for 5 minutes, or until the squash and peas have cooked through. Just before serving add the juice of one lemon, and taste to check seasoning, add more salt, pepper or lemon juice if needed. Cut up the left over lemon into wedges to serve on the side and enjoy!

Dairy and Nut Free Ice Cream

IMG_6212 I love ice cream, I mean who doesn't?! The only problem is that immediately after I have eaten it I get an upset stomach, this is probably because my body just doesn't digest milk, it's been that way since I was little. However I used to ignore this and eat ice cream, well...because it's just so good! But as I have become more in tune with my body over the past couple of years, I really do notice how it reacts to different foods, especially dairy. So I started off my dairy free ice cream endeavour by making frozen banana ice cream, which quite simply is blending up frozen ripe bananas and adding the topping of choice, mine would always be cinnamon and cacao nibs. It's delicious and easy to make but I was not quite satisfied, it lacks the creamy consistency. Then I experimented with making nut based ice cream, which was also really yummy but my husband wasn't convinced, and I wanted to try and make something for people with nut allergies.

So after a lot a of research and experimenting, I bring you the dairy and nut (and ice cream maker) free ice cream! It's rich and creamy, the perfect alternative to normal ice cream, husband approved (he went for seconds), and you don't need any fancy equipment to make it! It requires some pre planning, which is just putting a can of coconut milk in the fridge over night and peeling some ripe bananas and placing them in the freezer for a couple of hours. It is a great base so you can add cacao powder, fresh berries or just keep it plain and simple. I served some on top of spiced poached plums last night and it was divine. So let your imagination run free and the little child in you will be very happy, I promise!

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Ingredients (serves 8) 

1 can full fat coconut milk (the only added ingredient on the list should be water, no other nasties!) 3 ripe bananas (frozen) 1 vanilla pod / 1 teaspoon pure vanilla powder Optional : Goji berries (1/4 cup)

Extra ingredients

Coconut sugar / maple syrup / honey Cacao powder Fresh mint Cacao nibs

Equipment

Food Processor / blender Tupperware / Glass Pyrex container / I use this

Method:

Place the can of coconut milk in the fridge over night, or for at least 6 hours. When ready, turn the can upside down and open, you should have thick creamy coconut milk, scoop the contents into the food processor / blender. (At this point you will feel an urge to eat the solidified coconut milk straight out of the can, please try to control yourself!)

Add the bananas to the food processor / blender and combine, depending on your machine this should take around 5 mins to get a smooth consistency.

Meanwhile cut the vanilla pod lengthways and scoop out the seeds and add to the food processor / blender. This is the point to add in any other ingredients you want. I didn't add any sweetener to mine as I thought the bananas made it sweet enough for my palette but if you want it sweeter, add some coconut sugar, maple syrup or honey.

Then give it one final whizz in the food processor to combine all the ingredients (about a minute or so).

Pour the ingredients into the container and place in the freezer for 2 - 3 hours, at least.

Remove the ice cream from the freezer about 10 - 15 minutes before serving so that it is easy to scoop up.

Then add your favourite topping, or serve plain, and most importantly enjoy!

Raw Chocolate Madness Pt. 2

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So I know it has been a while since my last post...I was hoping to post part 2 of my raw chocolate experience quite soon after the 1st part as I made them both on the same day. However I got caught up with work and then went on holiday for a month, then I got back, had a serious case of the holiday blues and dived head-first into crazy working hours.

Anyhoo now I am back in the swing of things I am finally ready to put up the second part of my experiment, this time using cacao butter instead of coconut oil. I made this version into more of a healthy chocolate finger-esque bar, you can use a mould to achieve any shape you want, so it's fun to play around with. I had an Ikea silicone ice cube tray on hand and decided to use that. Alternatively you can line a glass oven dish with parchment paper, or basically anything that is flat and has sides which can contain the liquid chocolate mixture!

P.S.Using cacao butter definitely takes raw chocolate taste up to the heavens, but if it's not easy to get a hold of coconut oil is a pretty good replacement.

This recipe is inspired the one on Eleanor's amazingly beautiful blog, Earthsprout.

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Ingredients

1/3 cup cacao butter

1/2 cup raw cacao powder

3 tablespoon coconut sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon maca powder

1/4 teaspoon vanilla powder

himalayan pink salt / sea salt

Crushed pistachio nuts (optional)

Method

Melt the cacao butter in a metal or ceramic bowl over a pot of hot water, making sure that the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water.

Once melted remove from heat and sift the cacao powder, coconut sugar, maca powder and vanilla powder over the melter cacao butter and whisk together to combine. Then add a pinch of salt, this will enhance the sweet tones, and whisk away again, making sure all ingredients are well combined.

Pour out the mixture into the mould you are using, if you aren't using a silicone mould make sure to line with parchment paper. Sprinkle some crushed pistachio nuts on top, or whatever else you fancy, and pop in the freezer for 10 - 15 minutes.

Enjoy!

The Vegetarian Treehouse tries out catering!

KAC event  

The only independent art centre in Doha sadly may be closing it's doors soon so they decided to host an event to say farewell. This of course was devastating news as it is, in my opinion, one of the best things about Doha! I was chatting with my friend Faissal about how I feel like I'm not really doing what I truly want to be doing career wise, and when he asked me what I would ideally be doing, I realised that I am happiest when I am cooking, reading about food, researching and experimenting with recipes etc. So we somehow ended up with the wild idea of me offering to do the catering for the Katara Art Centre's closing event, for free, in support of all the amazing work they have done. So next thing I know I am pitching the idea to the art centre and writing up a menu! They were delighted with the offer and so I embarked on a mad rampage around town to find the bits and pieces I would need to make this work. The whole time thinking to myself, "I hope people will like my food"! Three days later, with minimal sleep and the help of my amazingly supportive friends, I was driving to the art centre with a car full of food, and some flowers in the cup holder hoping these strangers would like my food!

We managed to set up a table of my mini treats and it wasn't long after that people started arriving and curiously heading over to check out what was on offer. I was actually quite surprised and flattered by the number of people who were interested in knowing what everything was and where my "cafe" was located. It felt good to know that there are people in Doha who understand and appreciate clean eating habits. So overall the catering was a success and I was so happy I could do something in support of the Katara Art Centre, as well as evaluate how I would potentially move forward with pursuing my dream of working with food. Even though it was stressful, and tiring, it didn't matter, because I enjoyed every minute of it, and the best gift was that people liked it!

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A few days later I got a call from my friend Shaima, who is a pretty awesome human being/food blogger*, saying that she was interested in me doing a lunch at her work, The Doha Film Institute, to promote healthy eating during Ramadan. So I wrote up a menu and sent her the proposal and soon after got the go ahead to do it for 80 people!! Again I was going on 3 hours of sleep in 2 days but I didn't care because I was doing what I truly love doing, and for the first time I realised what it felt like to do something that I really have a passion for. I always have heard my dad say "if you love what you do you'll never work a day in your life", which I never really understood until I decided to embark on this crazy catering adventure. However, I do have to say that it did feel great to just get home, meditate, and go to sleep after the countless hours on my feet and mad adrenaline rush of feeding and meeting complete strangers.

*You can check out Shaima's blog here

DFI

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These two experiences have taught me a lot and helped me understand and develop how I would like to move forward with making what started off as a hobby, into what may be a career. Only time and perseverance can tell what the future holds for the Vegetarian Tree House, however, for the meantime I will still be posting up recipes on here and quietly working away on my masterplan...

Freshly Squeezed Almond Milk

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almond milk

From a young age I couldn't digest milk very well, therefore I tried to avoid it as much as possible. I then started substituting it with soy milk and soon found out that most soy products are genetically modified, have a lot of artificial sweeteners and preservatives added to them. I then became familiar with almond, rice and hemp milk and started buying those instead.

A couple years ago I had some friends over for brunch and was testing out some packaged hemp milk for the first time, as were most of my guests we started talking about crazy it is that hemp seeds, almonds or rice are made into something that resembles milk. My friend Tana explained that it's actually really easy to make it at home, and so that evening I went in search of recipes and was shocked at just how easy it really was! Better yet it's much healthier than what you find in the shop because it doesn't have preservatives or any other nasty ingredients added to it, and you can make whatever flavour you like.

I normally add a bit of vanilla powder, in the photo above I decided to add cacao & lucuma powder to one and vanilla & maple syrup to the other, they both turned out really good!

If you have a nut allergy just substitute the almonds with cooked brown rice or shelled hemp seeds.

Ingredients (make about 1 litre)

1 cup raw almonds 1 litre water (about 4 cups)

Additonal ingredients cacao powder (1-2 tablespoons per litre) lucuma powder (1-2 tablespoon per litre) vanilla powder (approx. 1/4 teaspoon per litre) honey/maple syrup (1 - 2 tablespoons per litre) rose water (1 tablespoon per litre)

Equipment  Nut milk bag (I have this one, its easy to clean and I've used it plenty of times over the past 4 years and it's only just stared to fall apart) OR a fine cheesecloth High speed blender Medium sized bowl 1 litre glass jar/ bottle with lid

Method

Cover and soak the almonds in a bowl of water overnight or for at least 6 hours. Once soaked, drain and thoroughly rinse the almonds. Place in a blender with 1 litre filtered water and blend for about 2-3 minutes, you want the almonds to be as fine as possible. Place the nut milk bag or cheesecloth over a bowl and carefully pour the almond milk over the cloth, making sure it is secure. Then hold the sides of the nut milk bag/cheesecloth and twist the top closed, then press and squeeze the pulp with your hands trying to get as much of the almond milk out as possible. (I like to save the almond pulp to make almond flour or amazeballs out of it) If you're adding any of the optional ingredients, rinse out the blender, pour the milk back in, add the ingredients and pulse for 10-15 seconds. Then pour into the jar or bottle,  and place in the fridge to chill.

Enjoy!

*This will stay good for about 2-3 days.

**The milk may separate but just give it a good shake and it will go back to normal.