Seven-minute​ recipe: carrot, lentil and mint salad

Carrot, lentil and mint salad

This yummy salad is easily made within my seven-minute time frame. In fact, tonight when I was making it so I could take the photos in this post, it only took 6 minutes and 15 seconds. Win!

Why seven-minute meals?

Seven minutes timeframe for these recipes was a length of time I picked at random, based on the amount of time it took to defrost the sort of microwave lasagne I was living on at the time.
The 7-minute timeframe gave me both a target and a release. Aiming to cook 7-minute meals gave me more freedom to experiment, if I stuffed up I would only have wasted 7 minutes and I could still order takeaway. Basing it on the time it took to microwave a frozen dinner helped set my expectations too. I want a meal that’s tastier than a frozen dinner, but I’m not aiming for cordon bleu. The great thing about cooking with fresh ingredients and whole foods is that I have found I often don’t need a tonne of fancy spices or elaborate preparations to make food taste great.

Continue reading “Seven-minute​ recipe: carrot, lentil and mint salad”


Instantly marinate tofu with this easy hack for the lazy cook

Instantly marinated tofu triangles

Tofu is one of my staples.  But often when I am trying to cook quickly I don’t have time to properly press and marinate the tofu and it can ends up being really tasteless.

I’m rarely organised enough to prepare ahead of time or patient enough to wait an hour while my tofu marinates.  When you skip this step the tofu doesn’t have time to soak up the flavour of the marinade and so it can easily become tasteless.

Instead I slice the tofu thinly and spread marinade inside sandwiches of tofu. This sandwich traps the marinade into the tofu, so need for it to soak. Cooking on a sandwich press is not only quick, it also further squishes the flavour into the tofu.  Continue reading “Instantly marinate tofu with this easy hack for the lazy cook”

Perfect sautéed onions just 3 minutes in the microwave

This week I was going to be sharing another seven minute recipe: Grilled Halloumi and mandarin salad.  However I’d used my digital SLR camera rather than my trusty iPhone to take the photos, because I was trying to get a more ‘foodie’ look and the photos were terrible. I need a lot more practice using my camera. Instead I am going to share my trick for making sautéed onions in just 3 minutes.


Sautéing onions makes them taste sweet due to the natural sugar in onions.  The butter add richness  and really makes these onions taste just like I spent 20 minutes sautéing them.  I did a blind trial for a friend last week and she could not tell the difference between the microwave onions and the traditional stove top sautéed onions.

Large onions don’t really work in this recipe.  Look for onions about the size of a lemon or smaller.  If you are cooking for two you can add a second onion and microwave for an additional minute or so.

Microwave sautéed onions


  • 1 small onion
  • 1 teaspoon butter


  1. Chop the top and bottom of the onion (do not peel)
  2. Sit the onion on it’s chopped flat bottom in a microwave safe dish and place a teaspoon of butter over the top
  3. Cover and microwave for 3 minutes
  4. Once done, use a knife and fork to cut off the brown skin and chop the tender onion into slices.

I added my onions to a sausage sandwich with the lot. Onions are the perfect compliment to vegetarian sausages.  You can see a video of me preparing this sandwich and just how quick it is to make these onions.


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Seven minute recipe: Beetroot and feta salad

Beetroot and feta salad

IMG_0482Winter is coming!

Daylight savings ended on Sunday and oh how I miss it.  I don’t mind getting up in the dark, but I miss having light in the evenings.  Today I had to spend ages fiddling around with the lights in the kitchen to take the photographs, because food under fluorescent light looks sad and unappetising. When I trialled this recipe it took just over 5 minutes, but today it took me nearly 8 because I spent so much time trying to position food under the LED lights not the fluros.

With daylight savings ending this weekend and rain today, it definitely felt like the seasons were changing.  A beetroot salad feels like a perfect autumn meal, root vegetables are a winter thing while salads are a summer thing.

I love beetroot and a beautiful roast beetroot salad is one of my favourite things to order at my local Mediterranean cafe. But I’ve never found the time to make something similar at home. I wanted a way to work the classic beetroot/feta combo into my life in a quick way.  Canned beetroot to the rescue.

Grilling the canned beetroot isn’t quite as tasty as roast beetroot, but it does add a caramelized taste which works well with the creamy feta.  As with all canned vegetables, it is essential to rise the beetroot well before grilling to get rid of the yucky juice they come in.  Canned beetroot also tends to be overly sweet, so don’t skimp on the salt, which is needed to balance the sweet.

Once again I used my sandwich press griller, George Foreman to the rescue. This could be done on the stovetop, but the ancient oven in my apartment would take 7 minutes just to get the grill plate hot.

Beetroot and feta salad

  • Servings: 2 people
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  • 1 small can of beetroot wedges
  • 1 head of broccoli
  • 200gm feta
  • 1 small bag mixed salad leaves
  • 1/2 cup smoked almonds
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • balsamic vinegar
  • lemon juice


  1. Rise the beetroot wedges well and toss with salt, then add to grill
  2. Chop the broccoli into bite size florets and microwave for 3 minutes
  3. Crumble the feta
  4. Once the broccoli florets are done, remove the beetroot from the grill, add all ingredients to a salad bowl and toss together
  5. Dress with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a good squeeze of lemon.

Ten minute snack: egg in a hole grilled cheese

IMG_0394I was talking with a friend recently about this blog and she wasn’t sure that there were healthy meals that would be faster to make than her go to lazy meal: grilled cheese.  Grilled cheese sounds so easy while something like a Mediterranean zucchini ribbon salad sounds complicated and like it would take a while to make.

I decided to time making my favourite grilled cheese, egg in a hole grilled cheese.  It took over ten minutes for me to pull together this sandwich.  So I hope this goes some way to proving my point that if you have time to make grilled cheese you have time to make a healthy meal.

So much of what we think about food and cooking is determined by culture.  Culturally grilled cheese is a quick meal for lazy days and so it feels like it will be easy and quick to cook.  In fact, making this sandwich took longer and included more steps than many of the recipes I have posted before.  For example my Cucumber salad with tahini dressing only 5 steps and can easily made in 7 minutes.   *end rant*

This recipe is not really in keeping with the spirit of this blog, it takes ten minutes to cook and it contains no vegetables.  However I used to make this all the time and it took me a while to perfect the timings for each step.  None of the recipes I found online had the perfect timing to produce a runny yolk, with a properly cooked egg white and nicely melted cheese, so I thought this would be worth sharing with you.

I use rye bread because it’s a little more substantial and the taste goes so well with melted cheesy goodness.

Egg in a hole grilled cheese



  • 1 egg
  • 2 slices rye bread
  • 2 slices cheese
  • Salsa to taste
  • 2 teaspoons butter or margarine


  1. Melt the butter in a small frying pan
  2. Place a slice of rye bread on a chopping board and press into it with a small glass, cutting a hole from the center of the slice
  3. Once the butter is melted add the bread to the fry pan
  4. After 30 seconds or so of the bread toasting, crack the egg into the hole in the bread.
  5. Let the egg fry for 2 minutes
  6. Cover the egg with a slice of cheese
  7. Spread salsa over the slice of cheese and cover with a second slice of bread
  8. After another 1 minute flip the sandwich, leaving the whole slice of bread on the bottom.
  9. Top with another slice of cheese.  Once the slice of cheese on top is just melted the sandwich is done



Seven minute recipe: spicy mango salad

Summer is well and truly here in Australia and Melbourne in particular seems to being having more than its fair share of heat waves so soon into the start of 2016.  There is nothing worse than having to spend time in the kitchen on a hot day.  So to celebrate the season I am sharing a salad which can be made in minutes, today, even including time taking photos, I pulled it together in just over 6 minutes.

The inspiration for this recipe came while I was on a holiday in Sri Lanka in 2013.  At the beach in Colombo there were street stalls selling paper cups of sliced fresh fruit, which is one of those things that you are absolutely not supposed to eat while you are traveling, to avoid food poisoning.  However we got talking to one of the hawkers and he agreed to cut up a whole mango for us at the stall.  He was going to all this additional effort to make sure our fruit was clean and chatting away to us and I didn’t feel I could stop him when he started sprinkling chilli flakes and pepper onto our sliced mango.  Up to that point I had eaten mango chutney, but they mainly use green mangos, it never occurred to me that chilli would go with raw mango.  Of course it was delicious and when I got home I started adding spicy mango to more and more of my salads. The cruciferous vegetable taste and crunch of broccolini goes well with the sweet, juicy and spicy mango.

My family always cube mangoes the same way, chopping off the sides, scoring them and inverting the mango half.  I’m not actually convinced this method gives you the largest amount of mango cubes in the salad, but it does leave the beautiful flesh around the pip for dessert. And the inverted mango halves do look pretty

Spicy mango salad

  • Servings: side for 2
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  • 1 mango – well ripened
  • 1 bunch broccolini
  • mixed salad greens
  • 1 desert spoon chilli flakes
  • 1 teaspoon hot paprika
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste
  • caramelized balsamic dressing



  • Chop the broccolini into 2 inch lengths and microwave for 3 minutes
  • Cut the mango into cubes, place in a bowl with the spices and toss together
  • Get the broccolini out of the microwave and allow to cool for 1 minute
  • Arrange everything on a salad plate and dress with additional chilli flakes and balsamic vinegar to taste.

A final note, I know I mentioned that I was going to make January healthy dessert month and there are yet to be any posts about desserts.  I haven’t given up.  I have been experimenting with lots of sweet treats but I still want to keep testing before I share anything.  I figure the world does not need another slightly modified avocado mousse recipe or instructions to make a slightly soggy microwave peach cobbler.  My trials and many errors have taught me a lot and I will share soon.


January is Healthy Dessert Month

I hope all those who celebrate had a happy Christmas and those who are vegetarian or vegan did not get too frustrated by relatives asking if they were sure they didn’t want any of the Christmas ham.

The new year is rapidly approaching and it’s always a good time to take stock of progress from the year before and what can be improved for the coming year.  I achieved my 2015 goal of becoming a better cook and bringing more fresh food into my eating and moving towards a plant based diet.  The recipes on this blog have been part of my journey working to fit healthy eating into a busy lifestyle.  I have found sharing them to be helpful for me and hopefully have been useful to those of you reading.

However I have missed making my weight loss goal for 2015 by a significant margin.  I have lost weight and the changes in my diet have left me with more energy and feeling healthier.  But I’m still significantly heavier than I should be and my weight loss has slowed right down.

My sweet tooth is the culprit here.  I love chocolate, I love cake and it’s not that rare for me to end up eating two slices of cake a day, or a brownie for afternoon tea and a bar of chocolate on the train home. Completely avoiding sugar works for a little while, until I get frustrated and end up eating an entire packet of Cadbury’s dairy milk.

Summer fruits are out in full force here in Australia, which has inspired me to set a healthy dessert challenge.  Every week in January I am going to be sharing my progress finding healthy desserts that can be made in 7 minutes.


Not so much with the healthy, but here are some dessert ideas that can be made in under 7 minutes:

Do you have a go-to healthy dessert to satisfy sweet tooth cravings?


Seven minute tofu lettuce cups

I was going to make a video of this recipe, but the time I got home from work it was late and the sun was setting.  Without natural light in the kitchen, I had to turn on the fluorescent lights, which make the food look awful.  So no video today.

This is a fun dish to make and to eat. Plus it’s super tasty.  Sometimes, like tonight, I make it as a main meal.  But it’s also great as an entree, tasty, pretty looking and you eat it with your hands.  I have a few end of year get togethers planned and this is one of the dishes that I know I can pull together quickly and give myself more time with my guest and less in the kitchen.

#plantbased #lettucewraps with lettuce #frommygarden in my #sevenminutemeal tonigh

A post shared by Emma (@sevenminutevegetarian) on

spicy tofu lettuce cups

  • Servings: 5 lettuce cups
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  • 125 grams (4.5 ounces) firm tofu
  • 1 cup bean shoots
  • baby cos lettuce
  • 1 chilli
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of vegetable stock
  • 1 clove garlic


  1. Slice the tofu into 1cm thick slices and place into fry pan with a splash of oil
  2. Once the tofu is warm mash with a potato masher into mince size pieces
  3. Add a heaped teaspoon of veggie stock to the tofu and cook until it browns slightly, which should take 2 or 3 minutes.
  4. While the tofu is cooking chop the chilli into small pieces and add to the tofu
  5. Crush the garlic clove and add to the tofu
  6. Add the bean shoots and cook until warm
  7. Wash the lettuce leaves, pick 5 cup-shaped leaves and arrange on a serving plate
  8. Scoop the tofu mix into the lettuce cups and serve.

Experiments with gnocchi in 7 minutes

I had been wanting to see if I can make a 7 minute gnocchi recipe for ages.  I love gnocchi and it’s normally quick to make.  I have made Amuse Your Bouche’s toasted gnocchi salad a few times and it only takes 15 minutes to pull together.

The I discovered mini gnocchi at my local supermarket.  When trying to cook quickly, small is good.  I was sure that I could use these to make a gnocchi dish in 7 minutes.  Today I am sharing the trial and error process that goes into making a 7 minute recipe.

My experiments confirmed that toasted gnocchi salad in 7 minutes was not to be.  My stove top is electric and really slow to heat up, which did not help.  But even when I excluded the time spent waiting for the pan to warm up it still took longer than 7 minutes.  Melting butter and then toasting gnocchi takes at least 7 to 10 minutes.  There is no rushing that toasty goodness.


My next step was to trial making gnocchi in the microwave, the go to appliance for quick cooking.  I started off based on some of the recipes I had seen on the internet microwaving the mini gnocchi for 2 or 3 minutes. This was way too long for mini gnocchi.  I made a lot of batches of gluggy unappealing gnocchi.

Four batches later I think I have finally determined the best procedure for microwaving mini gnocchi.

  1. Put 1/2 a cup of water in the microwave and heat until boiling.  This takes 45 seconds in my microwave.
  2. Add a cup of dried mini gnocchi to the water and microwave for 40 seconds
  3. Remove and add straight to pasta sauce.  If you leave them sitting for any length of time they will become cold and gluey.


The perfect microwave mini gnocchi

Unfortunately I used up all the mini gnocchi in testing, so I did not end up cooking a sauce to go with them.  Dinner tonight was trial batches of gnocchi with feta cheese and rocket.

I will go shopping again and buy more mini gnocchi to cook up and share in a full recipe.   I am thinking maybe with a cheese sauce like in Broccoli with cheese sauce recipe I shared recently.

Do you recognise these 7 mistakes in setting up a kitchen?

Today don’t have a new recipe to share, instead I am going to share some of the mistakes I was making in setting up my kitchen that were slowing me down when I was cooking. I have identified 7 kitchen set up mistakes and some of the solutions I have used to speed my cooking.

I used to eat unhealthy all the time.  One of the reasons was that cooking just seemed too time consuming and too complex for me.  So instead I relied on take-away or microwave dinners.  When I started my journey to eat healthy I initially found recipes that were quick to make, but it was still taking me a long time to prepare a meal.

It was not until I started timing myself when cooking that I discovered that part of the problem was that I was spending way too much time dashing about my kitchen finding things I needed.  Part of this was the way my kitchen was set up.

Actually my kitchen was set up the same way my Mum’s kitchen was.  Except she had a massive open plan farm kitchen and by virtue of city rents I have a tiny one, where copying my Mum’s kitchen set up makes no sense.  I know I’m not the only one.  I have a good friend who is excellent at living a zero-waste lifestyle, but she still had her third kitchen draw reserved for plastic wrap and tinfoil which she barely used, because that’s where her Mum had kept those things in their kitchen growing up.

Here are seven mistakes I have made in setting up my kitchen that slowed me down when cooking:

  1. Cupboards filled with things you hardly ever use – having to reach between the cherry pitter and the novelty cocktail straws to find a vegetable peeler wastes valuable time, plus saves the frustration of not being able to find things and the danger of being stabbed by corn cob skewers.  I did a massive cull of the things I never use, and moved many of the things I rarely use elsewhere.  I don’t want to get rid of the set of crockery for 12 and my 20L saucepan, but I rarely need them so now they’re all stashed along with my cherry pitter in the cupboard under the sink.  And I keep my veggie peeler in the cutlery draw with my teaspoons.
  2. Putting the kettle/toaster/blender/other device in premium bench space – as I’ve mentioned before my new kitchen has extremely limited bench space and when I first moved in I put the kettle and the toaster on the bench directly above the draws.  This was a logical place, but it meant that one of the few food preparation surfaces I had was largely taken up with appliances.  Plus it meant I was constantly running back and forward across the kitchen from where I was preparing things to the cutlery draw.  Now I have moved the kettle on top of the microwave and I’m keeping the toaster on a tray in a cupboard.   If I need a spoon to stir things or a can opener I don’t even have to move to grab them.
  3. Being unable to find matching tupperware lids – microwave cooking is all about being able to do things quickly, but it’s no good if you have to spend three minutes searching through all a million pieces of tupperware to find the matching lid.   I used to have all my lids in a separate container, but I found that it still took too long to find what I needed.  Now I’ve done a major cull on my tupperware and only kept the half dozen or so pieces which I use all the time.
  4. Having the knife block too far from where you chop things – like number 2, this is all about the time wasted wandering back and forth across the kitchen.  A good knife block is a must have for me, but in my old kitchen set up it was across the other side of the kitchen from where I did most of my chopping.  Moving it meant the right knife was always within reach, which not only saved time in fetching the right knife, but made me more likely to use the right knife so I was quicker chopping things too.

  5. Keeping broken things – for years I used a can opener that was just a little bit broken, the handle was cracked and if you didn’t hold it the right way it would pinch my hand.  I wasted so much time using this broken can  opener when I could have bought a new one for less than $5.  Kitchen appliances are so cheap these days, it’s worth looking to replace anything broken that’s slowing you down.
  6. Not being able to find things in the pantry – I like to bulk buy, so sometimes I’ll have half a dozen cans of tomatoes in my pantry, but that can make it hard to find a can of lentils when I need one.   I could spend ages looking for something, or worse assume I didn’t have an ingredient I needed because it was hiding behind three packets of pasta.  I am currently trialling a new system to combat this, I have divided my pantry into four sections, one for proteins, dried and canned beans etc.; one for carbohydrates, rice, pasta, quinoa etc; one for vegetables, onions, potatoes, canned veggies and a final one for spices, curry pastes etc. I’m not sure it’s foolproof, but it’s certainly a lot quicker to find things now.
  7. Making washing up difficult – this is not so much about cooking quickly, but about making sure it’s easy to clean up for next time. I hate washing up, and if the sink if full of dishes, it can just seem like one more reasons to leave it for later.  I’m much quicker in the kitchen if I make sure there is space on one side the sink for dirty dishes and for the dish drainer with the clean dishes on the other side.dishes

Do you recognise these kitchen set up mistakes?  Do you have any of your own that slowed you down?