Healthy Mexican-inspired Falafel Sandwich

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Here’s why I love Instagram, you follow people for months, years or even a day or two and one day all the stars line up perfectly so that you meet and it’s like you’re old friends catching up over a cup of coffee. Or at least that’s how it was when a couple of months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting one half of the dynamic duo that is SweetPillar.

They were in Dubai for a few days, and Deana reached out. We met up for what was supposed to be a morning cup of coffee at Mirzam the chocolate factory, and it ended up turning into a coffee, chocolate, lunch, dessert, coffee, beach, and art gallery roaming day. It was like meeting up with cousins that I hadn’t seen in a while – so natural, so organic, and so friggin hilarious, man. And I really do feel that if I ever find myself in New York or California, I’ve genuinely got people to visit.

But since we only got to meet for a day, we promised ourselves that we’d have a little cyber get-together to try each other’s recipes and boy am I glad I came across their Cinco De Mayo Middle Eastern Falafel Tacos recipe.

Here’s why this recipe appealed to me so much. After watching the episode where Phil is in Mexico eating a shawarma-like ‘pastor’ in Netflix’s Somebody Feed Phil, I vaguely learned about the culinary history shared between Syrian and Lebanese immigrants to Mexico, resulting in a fusion and new take on the traditional recipes that people have grown to know and love.

Because Deana, Nadia and I are all third (fourth) culture kids, bringing our own history and culture to the table when it comes to coming up with new recipes, a falafel taco recipe feels just right.

A warm, crunchy-at-the-sides wholewheat pita bread, topped with a smoked-pepper hummus, crunchy falafel, pickled onions, creamy avocado and a nice cilantro tahini dressing, I mean…come onnnn.


Ingredients:

For falafel*:

  • A can of organic chickpeas, drained
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Cilantro to taste
  • 1 medium-sized red onion
  • 1 tablespoon of cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • 2-3 tablespoons of oat flour (depending on how wet the mixture is)
  • Sea salt
  • Olive oil
*based on the recipe from Minimalist Baker

For hummus:

  • 1 can of organic chickpeas, drained
  • 3 tablespoons of tahini sauce
  • The juice of a lemon
  • Half a clove of garlic
  • 1 smoked red pepper (canned works fine)
  • Olive oil
  • Smoked paprika
  • Sea salt
  • Cumin powder

Toppings (everything here is optional, and based on your falafel sandwich preferences):

  • Pickled red onions (pickle the onions by slicing them, and leaving them in some apple cider vinegar and sea salt for a few minutes)
  • Sliced cherry tomatoes
  • Alfalfa sprouts
  • Wholewheat pita bread
  • Pomegranate jewels
  • Mint
  • Cilantro
  • Avocado

 

Tahini Side Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons of tahini sauce
  • A handful of chopped cilantro
  • The juice of half a lime/lemon
  • Sea salt
  • And a littttttle bit of water to dilute it.

 

How to Make it:

I know the ingredients may seem like a bit much, but once you get the hang of the flavors and what goes with what, it’s a lot simpler than it seems. The beauty of dishes like this is, there are no rules — just build up, or build down the flavors whichever way you like and practically anything goes.

  1. First, make the falafels by sticking all the ingredients in a food processor except for the olive oil. Make sure to gradually add the oat flour, depending on how wet or dry your mixture is. The falafel mixture should be dry enough for you to form a ball without the mixture sticking to your hand. If it sticks too much, then it’s too wet, add more flour.
  2. Once the falafel mixture is ready, form it into balls and heat a non stick (preferably cast iron skillet) with enough olive oil to coat the pan and fry the falafel balls on medium-high heat, making sure to turn them only once, or they will crumble (since they’re not being deep fried).
  3. In your food processor, mix all the hummus ingredients and blitz until nice and creamy.
  4. With your hand blender or food processor, add the tahini sauce ingredients and blitz together, adding enough water to make the sauce runny and not too dry.
  5. Heat up your pita bread, and start layering the flavors. First, start with some hummus, then pile on the falafel, pickled onions, and all the other toppings you want. I even added some alfalfa sprouts for some extra crunch and nutrients.

There it is, crunchy, healthy and absolutely friggin delicious. This Mexican inspired take on the humble falafel sandwich from the lovely Sweet Pillar Food has everything you’ll ever need.

I know there are a few falafel sandwich puritans out there that aren’t really digging the whole smoked peppers/avocado ensemble, put those rolling eyes aside and give this recipe a try. As Nadia and Deana say in their article:

“As a wannabe food historian, I can’t help but read about the history of food but also pay attention to the present.  With the largest refugee crisis in our lifetime happening before our eyes, I cannot help but wonder what will happen to the culinary world in decades to come. As Middle Eastern refugees begin to settle in Germany, Sweden, Greece, the US, Canada and beyond they will bring their culture and their food and merge it together with the local flavors.  Call it looking at the glass half full, but I am excited to see what culinary creations are going to happen for the years.”

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Healthy plant-based spiced chocolate tart with figs

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Something really strange has been going on with my Instagram lately — it seems the algorithms have changed (again) and smaller pages such as mine are lagging behind (again) unless they pay to have their posts boosted — sucks for me and my numbers, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to stop posting my recipes and photos; even if it’s only little ol’ me looking at them.

Ladies and gents, I give to you this beautiful plant-based chocolate tart with fresh figs on top. With no added processed sugar, this decadent beauty is the perfect chocolate fix and the best thing is…you could even have it breakfast if you felt like it.

It takes about 30 minutes to put together and about 2 hours to set in the fridge/freezer.

Here’s how I made it:

Ingredients:

For crust:

  • 1 cup of date paste (alternatively, you could soak about 20 dates in warm water, pit them and make into a paste in your food processor)
  • 1 teaspoon of organic coconut oil
  • 1 cup of rolled oats
  • 1 cup of salted pecans (you use any kind of nut you like)
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla pods
  • 1 teaspoon of ginger powder
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 1 tablespoon of almond butter

For filling:

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1/3 cup of tahini paste
  • 1/4 cup of date syrup
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla paste
  • 1/3 cup of organic cacao powder
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon

For topping:

  • Any fresh fruit you’d like.
  • Cashew cream (optional)**

The method to my madness:

  • First things, first. In your food processor, process the oats, cinnamon, ginger, and pecans into a fine flour.
  • Then, add the dates, honey, almond butter and vanilla and process all together until it forms a dough-like ball.
  • Take out the crust dough and with your hands knead it until it becomes nice and sticks together.
  • In a serving plate lined with wax paper, form the ball into a circular crust (or whatever shape you’d like) using your fingers and pressing down firmly. I created a little pool-like dough so the chocolate doesn’t pour out.
  • Place the dough in the freezer to firm up as you make the filling.
  • In a food processor (sorry, you’re going to have to clean it:)), throw together all the filling ingredients and blitz until it’s nice and creamy — taste it and see if you need to add anything (more honey, more cinnamon…)
  • Pour the filling mixture into the dough and put back in freezer to set (for two hours), or overnight in the fridge.
  • To top, you could make a simple cashew cream by placing 1 cup of raw cashews into a bowl with boiling hot water on top and let sit for two hours. Then blitz all together with a hand blender. I like to add two tablespoons of honey, vanilla paste and a little squirt of lime.

 

That’s it. Super simple. Super healthy. Super beautiful. No nasty processed additives that’ll have you feeling terrible after, this plant-based chocolate tart is just what I needed this hectic Sunday!

Since you’re here, why not follow Straight-upBananas on Instagram, too!

Quick carrot and ginger soup

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After 15 hours of fasting, you’d think that the first thing I’d want to do is dig into a ginormous meal, right? Nah, soup and salad are what I crave all day. I know it sounds strange, but that’s just the way it is. After so many hours of not having anything in your system, your stomach kind of gets used to it — and come iftar time, you’ll find yourself physically incapable of stuffing your face no matter how much you try.

One of my sisters-in-law once made this delicious carrot and ginger soup, so I tried to make my own vegan version minus the cream and the butter.

It’s super simple to make, mega good for you and tastes great. My husband and I finished 4 bowls in one day.

What you need:

  • 1 kilo of carrots
  • 2 tablespoons of grated ginger
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 spring onions
  • 1 handful of raw cashews
  • 1 organic stock cube
  • sea salt and pepper
  • 1 liter of boiling water
  • 1/2 can of coconut milk (optional, but makes it much creamier)
  • Olive oil

 

How to make it:

  • In a large pot, add some olive oil and add the chopped carrots, spring onions, ginger, and garlic and saute lightly.
  • Then, add the stock cube, cashews, and boiling water and bring to the boil.
  • Simmer on low for about 20 minutes or until you can pierce carrots with a fork.
  • Turn off the heat, add the coconut cream (optional) and with a hand blender, blend the soup together till nice and silky.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • I like to serve pureed soups with a dollop of yogurt and you can top with some fresh coriander or dill.

 

As always, easy peasy.

Let this be a testament that you can get that creamy, hearty soup you’re craving, minus all the nasties from the cream. Give this soup a try, I promise you won’t be missing anything.

Oh, and since you’re here, why not show me some love on Instagram?

Easy potato, leek and butter bean soup

 

Potato leek and butter bean soup - straighupbananas.jpeg

Have I ever mentioned that I originally wanted to blog ONLY about soups…? Dumb, I know. But I’m an avid fan of everything slurpy and thought it would be a good idea to dedicate a website to my slurping obsession. Then, that same day, I was watching an episode of New Girl and Jess tells Schmidt that she’s “Straight-up Bananas, yo” and I literally popped my laptop open and bought the domain on spot. Fast forward four years and here we are…with a thriving Instagram account (have you followed me yet?), and less than impressive website (help meeeee)

Long story, short: I love soups. Probably way more than I should. Now add Ramadan and my constant need to break my fast with any kind of soup and you’ve got some good old-fashioned improv happening in the kitchen.

And the leek, potato and butter bean soup was born.

Super simple to make and MEGA good — it tastes creamy and cheesy for some reason without an ounce of either.

It takes about 20 minutes to put together and then you just puree it with a handy, dandy hand blender and you are good to go, mi amigo.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2 Leeks
  • 1/2 kilo of potatoes, skinned and diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 can of fullfat coconut cream
  • 2 organic stock cubes
  • 1 spring onion
  • 1 tablespoon of melted coconut oil
  • 1 can of white butter beans
  • 1 liter of boiling water
  • Dill, coriander or spring onion for serving (optional)

How to make it:

  • First, make sure you clean the leaks as they sometimes can be gritty
  • Put 1 liter of water to boil in a kettle
  • In a pan, melt the tablespoon of coconut oil
  • Slice the leeks, garlic, and spring onion and add to the pot to saute a bit
  • Then add the diced potatoes, stock cubes and boiling water and bring to a boil
  • Once up to the boil, lower the heat and let the soup simmer for 15 minutes (or until potatoes are completely tender…like mashed potato tender)
  • Add the can of butter beans and cook a bit more (1 minute or 2)
  • Turn off the heat and add a cup of coconut milk and the juice of the lemon
  • With a hand blender, blend the mixture until completely cream
  • Serve with freshly cracked black pepper, a drizzle of olive oil and some dill or any other herbs.

This soup is easy, delicious and perfect for Ramadan — you’re going to love it, I promise!

While you’re here, why not check out my Instagram account and follow me!

6-ingredient vegan pasta dish

Simple spaghetti sauce straightupbananas

My go-to meal when I’m in dire need of groceries and need something wholesome and easy for lunch.

Made of 5 ingredients and in two pots — it’s a win- win for me any day.

Ingredients:

  • Wholewheat pasta of your choice
  • 1 can of organic crushed tomato
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • olive oil
  • Green peas
  • Sea salt

 

How to make it:

  • In boiling water with some sea salt, add the pasta and cook as instructed on package.
  • While the pasta is cooking, in a frying pan, add the olive oil and fry the garlic till nice and golden.
  • Then, add the can of crushed tomato and cook together.
  • Add some pasta water to get a nice rich consistency for the sauce.
  • Once the pasta is cooked through, add the pasta to the sauce and cook together then add the frozen green peas making sure not to over cook it.

That’s it, you’re done!

Hey why not visit my Instagram page: @straightupbananas

 

Roasted coriander and pepper baby potatoes

Roasted baby potato side dish straightupbananas

So Spinney’s was gracious enough to invite me to their Virtual BBQ a few weeks ago, they sent me a hamper with all the essentials for a great BBQ at home. We set a time and a few hashtags, invited a few friends over and put together a beautiful feast full of fun and delicious food.

One of the jewels of this gathering was the roasted baby potatoes spiced with garlic, coriander, red chili peppers, lemon and chipotle tabasco sauce. I usually opt in for a side dish of roasted potatoes anytime I have a gathering — they’re always one of the first things to go!

Super simple, deliciously crispy and no deep frying involved — this perfect side dish to anything could be ready in less than twenty minutes as you go about cooking the rest of your meal!

Ingredients:

  1. 1 lb of baby potatoes (the whole sack)
  2. 8 cloves of garlic (leave the skin on)
  3. Coriander (to taste)
  4. Chipotle Tobasco sauce
  5. 1 lime
  6. sea salt
  7. olive oil
  8. 1 liter of boiling water

 

How to make it:

1- In a large pot, bring the water to boil and drop in the potatoes and the cloves of garlic (skin on). Cover and boil for about 10 minutes or until you can pierce it with a fork.

2- In a pestle and mortar, bash together the coriander leaves and chili peppers, then add some olive oil, lime juice, sea salt and chipotle sauce.

3- Once the potatoes are cooked, drain them really well and leave in a colander till they’re completely dry.

4- Bring a large pan to hight heat, add some oil and add the completely dry baby potatoes.

5- Allow the potatoes to get nice and crispy.

6- Squeeze out the soft garlic from the skin and add to the potatoes to fry (holy smokes will this spell AMAZING)

7- Once the potatoes have gotten beautifully golden and crispy, add the coriander, chili and chipotle mixture and let the sauce coat the potatoes and fry for another minute.

 

These potatoes are fluffy and floury on the inside, and crispy and spicy on the outside — everything you’d ever want from a potato, man.

 

Give it a try and follow me on Instagram since you’re here!

Fresh Citrus Salad

Citrus Salad StraightupBananas

Here it is, ladies and gents — summer in a single salad.

Fresh, insanely easy to put together and nice and light — you can’t go wrong with serving this nice citrusy salad with any meal.

 

Ingredients:

  1. 1 grapefruit
  2. 1 navel orange
  3. pumpkin seeds
  4. fennel
  5. chili flakes
  6. watercress (arugula, baby spinach or chard works fine)
  7. olive oil
  8. sea salt
  9. mint leaves

 

How to make it:

  • First, slice the grapefruit and orange as thin as you can without chopping off your fingers.
  • Then, place on the plate you’re going to serve it in.
  • Slice the white part of the fennel onto the citrus
  • sprinkle on the watercress leaves, chili flakes, mint leaves and sea salt
  • drizzle on some olive oil and you’re good to go!

 

That’s it, you’re done! It’s gorgeous, amazingly fresh and the kick of the chili adds just the right flavor to bring this fresh salad all together!

 

Give it a try and follow me on instagram, folks: @straightupbananas