Sweet potato and lentil empanadas with a sofrito-avocado sauce

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This week, Sophie from Vergingonvegan and I teamed up for a mystery ingredient challenge. We each asked our audience to recommend 4-5 ingredients that they’d like us to use, and we’ll come up with two separate vegan recipes. And I’ll tell you right now, it was actually a lot more challenging than I thought it would be.

The ingredients that were chosen, were: chickpea flour, almond meal, nutritional yeast, and lentils.

Sounds simple enough, but trying to think a little bit out of the box, and fighting off that urge that you have to just go for the recipes that are tried and tested is harder than you would think.

Finally, I settled on a recipe that I hope would do my Puerto Rican family proud. Empanadillas also known as empanadas. Which literally translates to wrapped stuffing in bread or dough. It’s a dish that almost every Latin-American country has a variation of, and Puerto Rico is no different.

It’s a dish I grew up helping my mother and grandmother cook, and a dish I loved to eat. Traditionally, it’s made either with a meat and onion filling, or stuffed with a potato mixture and deep fried in oil. I decided to find a way to utilize the ingredients given to me, but also make it a little cleaner.

And because in my house, empanadas are usually always eaten with Tobasco sauce, I decided to make a spicy version of my mother’s sofrito. Sofrito is basically the base flavor that’s used in all Puerto Rico dishes. I have distinct memories of my mother in the kitchen, whipping up a quick batch of her sofrito–a medley of green peppers, cilantro, lemon, onions, and garlic blitzed up to make a paste. Then, when you’re cooking (literally anything), you add some oil to the pan, cook off some sofrito till the house smells like heaven, and then add whatever it is you’re cooking.


So here’s how I made it:

The dough:

  • 1 cup of chickpea flour
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup of melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup of nut milk/water
  • A pinch of sea salt

 

The filling:

  • 2 medium-sized sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup of red lentils
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • Cilantro sprigs
  • 1 spring onion
  • 3 tablespoons of smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon of sweet paprika
  • 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast (this is totally optional)
  • 1/4 cup of almond meal
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Chopped yellow bell pepper (half a bell pepper)

The sauce:

  • 1 spring onion
  • Cilantro sprigs
  • Half a green bell pepper
  • The juice of 1 lime/lemon
  • 2 teaspoons of tahini sauce
  • Half an avocado
  • 1/2 clove of garlic
  • 2 teaspoons of water

 

Here’s how to make it:

  • Start by making the dough. Mix all the dough ingredients together and knead until it becomes well incorporated and a tacky to the tough (not too dry or too wet). If you feel the mixture is still too dry, add more milk or water (A LITTE BIT AT A TIME). Then, cover with beeswax paper/cling film and set aside at room temperature and start with the filling.
  • For the filling, I started off by peeling the sweet potatoes, dicing them relatively small, and boiling them in water until they were soft enough to mash with a fork.
  • In a separate pot, I boiled the red lentils until they too were tender enough to mash up.
  • In a large bowl, I added the sweet potatoes, lentils, almond meal, sea salt, nutritional yeast, and paprika and mashed the mixture with the back of my fork until they became a nice, smooth mixture.
  • Then, in a pan, I fried the garlic, cilantro, and onion and added them to the filling mixture.
  • Set the filling aside and let it cool off a bit, while you work on the dough again.
  • Set your oven to 200C and allow it to preheat while you make the dough.
  • On a clean surface, roll out the dough as thin and uniform as possible — always making sure to flour the surface and your rolling pin so that it doesn’t stick.
  • Then, with a small plate, place the plate on your dough and cut a circle around it, saving all the scraps.
  • Grab all the scraps left, knead them a bit again and roll them out to make another empanada.
  • Put about 3 large spoons of the filling inside the circle of dough, fold to one side and shut using the back of a fork.
  • Place the empanada on a baking sheet, brush with coconut oil and bake for 20-25 minutes, until they get nice and golden brown.
  • While the empanadas are baking, it’s time to make the sauce.
  • In a container, add all the sauce ingredients and using a hand blender, blitz them all together till nice and creamy.
  • Allow the empanadas to cool a bit before you eat them, and dust some paprika on top.

The recipe sure does sound more complicated than it actually is. And it sure did take me a lot of trial and error to get the dough right. But it’s worth it to be able to see a plant-based, cleaner version of one of your childhood favorite flavors.

I hope I’ve made my abuela proud with this one!

Since you’re here, why not follow me on Instagram Straight-up Bananas

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Roasted Chickpea and Turmeric Couscous Buddha Bowl

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So if you’ve got any leftover roasted veggies or grains, then a Buddha bowl is the best way to make use of them.

Super simple, super good for you and really delicious. This bowl of goodness makes the perfect lunch any day.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup of fine couscous (could be substituted with quinoa or bulgar wheat)
  • 2 cups of hot water
  • 1 Carrot sliced into ribbons
  • 2 radishes, finely sliced
  • 1 cup of baby spinach
  • Turmeric
  • Chili flakes
  • Sea salt
  • Olive oil
  • ½ an avocado
  • Nigella seeds (cumin seeds for topping) (optional)

Ingredients for dressing:

  • 2 tablespoons of tahini sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • The juice of 1 lime
  • Sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons of water
  • 1 clove of garlic

 

Method:

First, make the turmeric couscous. Mix the couscous, 2 teaspoons of turmeric, sea salt, olive oil and hot water in a bowl. Cover the bowl and let the couscous set.

Then, fluff the couscous with a fork once all the water has disappeared.

Then, it’s time to roast the chickpeas. Drain the can of chickpeas really well and let the chickpeas dry on a paper towel.

Then, in a hot pan add the chickpeas and some olive oil and let roast until it gets nice and golden brown.

When the chickpeas begin to color, add the chopped garlic, chili flakes and sea salt.

With a handheld blender, mix all the dressing ingredients together.

Assemble the ingredients together and top with dressing.

 

5 Days in Southern Sri Lanka

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Sri Lanka has been on my Bucket List for a while now, and I’m so happy that I finally had the chance to visit.

Although our trip was shorter than I would’ve liked, I think we got a pretty decent taste of the Southern cities of Sri Lanka. Our trip was – all in all – 5 days, but it was absolute perfection from start to finish and I can’t wait to share our itinerary with you!

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Day 1

We set off from sunny Abu Dhabi and a short 4 episodes of Family Guy and 4 New Girl episodes later, arrived in Colombo.

We hired a taxi to drive us to Midigama from Colombo. The entire ride I was told should be about 3 hours long, but we got lost along the way so it ended up taking double the time. Just make sure the taxi takes you through the highway! The taxi ride cost us about 7000 Rupees which is about 175 AED + tolls.

Our first order of business was to visit Ebb and Flow Jungalows in Midigama. About a year ago, one of the only fashion bloggers I’ll ever follow, StyleDrifter, featured these lovely Jungalows on her blog and ever since I’ve been lusting over them, in the hopes that one day I’ll get to check out the place. And I did. And it was glorious.

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We pulled into the driveway a good four hours later than anticipated, only to find the wonderful Chef Indika had been waiting for us all along with a full-fledged dinner of incredible Sri Lankan curries galore!

 

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Chef Indika’s Amazing Curries
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View from the kitchen and dining area

Each Jungalow comes with its own special Jungalow Manual. A manual with all the information you’ll ever need. How to order food, where to get the best surf classes, the best-priced massages in the area, how much taxis should be charging you–I mean, this little booklet was a testimony on how much love end energy Verity and Garrath put into the jungalows. No detail is spared. They even give you a mobile phone along with their numbers so you can contact them whenever needed.

 

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Fresh Fruit and the Jungalow Manual

 

Day 2

After getting the good night’s sleep we so desperately needed. We woke up nice and early for a very eventful day planned out meticulously. First, we were going to have breakfast with Chef Indika then we were going to get our swimwear and head for our first lesson in surfing…ever

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Prepping our surfboards

I won’t lie and say that I was a natural, but I did thoroughly enjoy it even if I wasn’t ever able to get off my stomach! Garreth (owner of the Jungalows along with his wife, Verity) set up our class with a local instructor and I’m glad he did. This guy was an excellent teacher–very safe and very cautious while still giving you plenty of room to play:)

After our surf class we headed back to Ebb and Flow Jungalows and found that chef Indika had prepared a lunch fit for kings. So every morning after breakfast, you choose what you want for lunch and chef Indika scouts the local markets for fresh produce,

Here’s how the halfboard option of the Jungalows go. Every morning after breakfast, you choose what you want for lunch and chef Indika scouts the local markets for fresh produce, fish and poultry, comes back to the junglaows and prepares lunch/dinner. I don’t think I’ve ever been as spoilt  as I was on my last trip to Sri Lanka.

 

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Lunch was Singapore Crabs with a fresh avocado and tomato salad

 

After lunch, we finally got to meet half of the brains behind these wonderful Jungalows. Verity stopped by and told us everything we needed to know about the area. She asked what we enjoyed doing and we hoped to gain from our stay in Sri Lanka.

Before my tour with Verity, Mohanned and I decided to chill in the private pool in our villa and enjoy the lovely weather.

 

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Private Villa Pool

 

Her and I later decided to go on a famous Tipple Tuk Tuk Tour. You can find information on the tours on this link. So the cool thing about a Tipple TukTuk tour is that Verity and the wonderful Talak have you hop on their tutktuk and take you to all the coolest spots for drinks, snack, sunset views and dinner. You can hook up your phone or ipod to Talak’s tuktuk and enjoy your favorite tunes on the road.

The beauty of this tour is that Verity takes you to cool hangouts that you probably wouldn’t have found without her. She takes you off the beaten path, to enjoy wonderful experiences like catching fireflies by the beach.

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Then she took me to meet her friends at Bedspace Hotel for an amazing dinner experience. Malcolm, the owner and chef, is also an expat living in Sri Lanka. The food, conversation and music just make for a perfect night out.Verity is also a life coach and I could honestly say I had very heartfelt, one-on-one

 

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Grilled Chicken and Spanish Rice — Absolutely Delicious!

 

Verity is also a life coach and I could honestly say I had very heartfelt, one-on-one conversations with her without ever feeling awkward or judged in any way. It truly is an experience not to be missed. I mean, it’s not every day that you have the opportunity to roam a city with a local, right?

 

Day 3

Sadly, our third day in Sri Lanka was our last in Ebb and Flow Jungalows and it was time to set sail to our next destination in the Southern region of Sri Lanka, Koggala Lake.

We really enjoyed hanging out with everyone after dinner and I feel like we made friends in Midigama that I’ll never forget.

Sweet Tallak (he is the sweetest person on the face of this planet and the best hugger ever) was waiting to take us to Koggala by tuktuk and a short and very scenic 25 minutes later we were pulling up to the drive way of Tri.

On the way, Tallak stopped and showed us some wild sea turtles splashing about in the ocean and we got fresh coconuts. I mean that right there is my idea of heaven.

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Tallak and I looking for sea turtles

I’d really recommend reaching out to Tri before arrival as the hotel is a bit off the beaten path and it will make your life a lot easier if the hotel staff talks directly to the taxi or tuktuk driver–it’s a little far out and could be tricky to find, but once you get there your life will never be the same, I promise.

This. Place. Is. Unreal.

It’s like something straight out of a dream.

Minimilist. Beautiful. Inspiring.

 

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The first thing you see, the infinity pool
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Library and Yoga studio

We were greeted by the lovely Imesha and a nice cold papaya smoothie and I knew I was in love. I still hadn’t seen where we’d be staying, but at that point, I didn’t care if I stayed on the grass and slept the night. This place is unbelievably beautiful. I cannot even explain.

After check in, Imesha guided us to where we’d be staying, the Water Tower room.

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The outside of the water tower
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View of the pond, library and yoga studio from the water tower

 

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The bed and view

And as if I weren’t gob smacked before, I was informed by Imesha that multiple-course breakfast and dinner were included with the cost along with free yoga classes with the owner of the estate.

I can’t even call this place a hotel. It’s much, much more. Every inch of this place is so well thought out. I mean, the water in the pool is chlorine free, it’s ionised water.

The positioning of the water tower rooms follow the Golden Ratio which is said to promote harmony and internal balance.

I know most of you may be skeptical, but there’s something about this place that just has you at ease.

You will not want to leave. I promise you.

Please do not miss the spectacular sunset view over the lake on the terrace upstairs.

 

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The sunset over lake Koggala at Tri

 

Day 4

The soothing sounds of dawn prayer at the monestary nearby along with the lake breeze will wake you up with a smile on your face.

Then it’s time to head to breakfast.

Everything they serve at Tri is locally sourced and organic. And each dish is a work of art.

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After breakfast we sat at the infinity pool and soaked in some sun.

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Pool Area

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Then we contacted Imesha for help booking a boat trip to the nearby Cinnamon Island and a couple’s massage for our 3rd year wedding anniversary.

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On our way to Cinnamon Island

The boat ride is equipped with a cooler full of cold beverages and fresh coconuts for the ride.

The island itself is a tour on how cinnamon is grown, harvested and prepared along with some other local spices and herbs.

My only piece of advice would be not to take on the tour guide’s challenge on eating chilis. I thought I was okay with the heat, but my stomach didn’t agree. At all. Don’t do it.

When we came back to the hotel, Imesha had put together a very romantic dinner for Mohanned and I in celebration of our anniversary. Along with a custom made anniversary cake.

The estate is breathtakingly beautiful, but the staff are amazing. They will literally bend backwards to make sure your stay is as comfortable as possible.

Day 5

I was heartbroken to leave, but it was time to thank the Universe for giving me the wonderful opportunity to visit Sri Lanka. We headed back to Colombo airport and right back to overly sunny Abu Dhabi.

Two months later, and I’ve already booked another trip back. I can’t wait.

 

 

Vegan Spiced Pumpkin Bowl

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So I’m an avid fan of all things pumpkin spiced and ’tis the season, my friends. ‘Tis the season.

This recipe is perfect as a healthy breakfast or a healthy dessert option. It’s super simple and ridiculously quick to put together. Another of my favorite things about is that it requires frozen very ripe (almost black) bananas that would have otherwise been thrown away!

Ingredients (for one bowl:

  • 2 frozen bananas (as ripe as you can get them)
  • 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree (either canned or homemade, doesn’t matter)
  • 1/2 cup of Greek style coconut yogurt (you can use regular yogurt, just make sure it’s got some probiotics/live cultures)
  • 1 teaspoon of maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon of cinnamon
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 teaspoons of ginger powder
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • A splash of soy milk (to get the food processor moving)

Method:

  1. Throw everything into your food processor and blitz till nice and creamy
  2. Top with anything you’d like. I’ve added salted coconut chips, pumpkin seeds and chia seeds.

 

I kid you not, this stuff is as good as ice cream of frozen yogurt ANYDAY! Give it a try, it’s the perfect healthy breakfast or dessert option.

Since you’re here, check out my Instagram account–purrty paleez?

 

Easy healthy vegan fudge squares

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After almost two weeks of being ill, I am finally back in the kitchen and couldn’t be happier.

After hours of thinking of new recipes to feature on my blog and without the will power to put pants on and go out to get some groceries, I rummaged through my cupboards and fridge and decided to test something out…luckily it proved to be one of the most successful recipes yet…no joke.

They’re crazy simple, really quick to make and are healthy as hell!

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The beauty of this recipe is that you can just store in a container in the fridge and you’ve got a chewy, fudgy snack ready for you at any time.

So I may or may not have cheated just a tad. Last Ramadan Mohanned made an impulsive purchase of date paste. Which is basically dates that’ve been pitted and formed into a paste. I don’t know why it took me so long to venture out and make a dessert using them, but they save LOADS of time. I actually cut the block (which is 1 KG) into fourths and will use one fourth each time I make this recipe. And I will be making it, many, many times. 🙂

I think the beauty of this recipe is that it’s so easy and really versatile. I mean, I literally threw whatever I had in the food processor and so can you (as long as you feel the flavors go together).

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 of the packet of date paste (about a quarter of a KG)
  • 1 handful of toasted coconut
  • 1 handful of granola (or toasted oats)
  • A sprinkle of goji berries
  • 1 handful of banana chips
  • 1 tablespoon of maple syrup (or honey)
  • 1 tablespoon of tahini sauce (sesame paste)
  • 1 tablespoon of almond butter
  • 3 tablespoons of smooth peanut butter
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons of melted coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons of carob powder

 

How to make it:

  1. Throw everything into your food processor
  2. Blend together till everything is nice and crumbly and you can easily form it into a ball with your hands
  3. Line a container with parchment paper
  4. Throw the mixture into the container that’s lined with parchment and press down until firm
  5. Refrigerate for about 20 minutes and then cut them into small squares

As long as you keep these babies in the fridge and properly covered, they’ll be chewy and wonderful for a long time.

Check out my Instagram account, since you’re here 🙂

Spiced chia seed and almond milk pudding

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Yes, another vegan chia seed pudding recipe. I love them. They’re so quick, so easy and so damn versatile. So if it’s alright with you, I’m going to be repeating them, time after time!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of chia seeds
  • 2 and ½ cup of almond or coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons of maple syrup or honey
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of ginger
  • Any type of fruit or nuts for topping

 

 

Cooking Instructions:

  • In a container, throw all the ingredients together and mix well.
  • Close container and place in fridge overnight.
  • In the morning, pour mixture into bowl and top with whatever you like!

 

Since you’re here, mi amigo. Go on and follow me on Instagram! Please and thank ya!

Easy and quick soba noodle tuna salad

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‘Tis the middle of the week and I neither have the desire, nor the stamina to drive all the way to the grocery store and buy provisions to keep me from dying of the hunger. A little rummage here, a chop there, a can opener in the middle and I’ve got this lovely soba noodle tuna salad. I’m slurping. I’m happy. I’m no longer withering away from hunger. Life is grand.

It’s so ridiculously easy to put together and you can add or remove any ingredient that you’d like basically. It’s one of my go-to recipes when I’m completely out of food inspo!

Ingredients:

Noodles:

  • 1 pack of soba noodles
  • 1 chopped spring onion
  • 1 grated carrot
  • 2 cans of tuna (canned in water is best)
  • A handful of broccoli florets (frozen works perfectly)
  • Chopped coriander
  • ¼ cup of sesame seeds
  • A handful of crunchy mixed greens

 

Salad Dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons of sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1 grated clove of garlic
  • The juice of 1 orange (or lemon)
  • Ginger powder
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Cooking Instructions:

  • In the large bowl, put together all the dressing ingredients, mix well and leave in bowl.
  • Bring a large pot of water to the boil and cook the soba noodles according to the instructions. Usually 7 minutes is enough. (Do not overcook the noodles)
  • Add the broccoli florets to the boiling water and cook for 4 minutes.
  • Once the noodles are cooked, rinse them in cold water to stop the cooking process and drain well.
  • Throw the cooled noodles and broccoli into the bowl with the dressing.
  • Grate in the carrot and add the rest of the salad ingredients.
  • Mix noodles into dressing and enjoy!

Since you’re here, why not head off to my wee little Instagram page–I’d love to have ya!