24 July, 2014

Paleo Chocolate Banana Bread

Remember my last post about the upcoming Ramadan 10k race that involved big prize money? Well, the prize money was doubled to 2.1 million AED (that's 400.000 EUR or 540.000 USD). I ended up finishing 10th female. After doublechecking nationality and residency of each runner, I moved up to 8th female in the expat female category.
As no specifications were made upfront as to who would get how much money, I would not know if I was in the prizes. It's been almost three weeks now since the race. My residency details have been checked three times. Now I am waiting....for that email.....that will tell me about the IF and HOW MUCH.
It's summer and it's Ramadan. In Dubai, those are sure signs of things moving very very slowly. I have no choice to sit and wait.

The actual race was great fun. It was extremely hot, around 38C/100F with very high humidity. Running paces were totally off due to the heat. The race started at 1045pm. Sheikh Hamdan himself, Crown Prince of Dubai, was there at the start. The announcement of the provisional first three in each category was at 0120am at night. A huge stage with DJ was set up to announce the winners and to entertain us while we were waiting. Almost festival atmosphere. Everything was so off what I usually do: a 10k race in July, running at 11pm at night, staying up til 2am in the morning....But well organized and thoroughly enjoyable. Now if that email would just come...

My running is back to base training. Lots of long slow runs. Nothing strenuous. I run by feel rather than let my running watch predict my pace. I find these slow runs very invigorating. It's my favorite way of taking a rest.
Low heart rate training is the best thing you can do in the off-season. It boosts the metabolism and gives my legs a well-deserved break. I have a three week holiday in Greece to look forward to. Can't wait to go run there. And look forward to Greek food too. Lots of yogurt, olives, fresh veggies, seafood....simple, straight forward food.

I have realized that I haven't baked for a while. My last baked dessert post was in April. Not sure how that happened. It could possibly be explained that my diet has become simpler and more straight forward too. I am happy with plain nuts and seeds and a piece of fruit rather than processed dishes.

However, cravings come and go. And this chocolate banana bread I have made and perfected in several attempts. It certainly satisfies and sweet and chocolate cravings. And it's amazingly simple to put together with an ingredients list that couldn't be much shorter. I hope you enjoy!

---------------------------------------------------------
PALEO CHOCOLATE BANANA BREAD

(Print Recipe)

150g/1 1/2 cups almond meal
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

2 eggs
1 cup mashed banana (ca. 2 large bananas)
1/4 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Serves 8
---------------------------------------------------------
Preheat oven to 180C/350F.

In a large bowl, combine almond meal, cocoa powder, baking soda, cream of tartar and sea salt. Mix until well combined. Set aside.

With an electric mixer, beat the eggs until creamy. Then add mashed banana, honey and vanilla and mix some more. Add egg mixture to dry ingredients. Gently fold in until ingredients are just combined. Pour batter into prepared loaf tin. Bake in preheated oven for about 45 minutes. Let cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
Continue Reading>>

04 July, 2014

Salade Niçoise

My running break is over. Thank goodness for that. It lasted about 2 1/2 weeks. I am not sure if it was enough to recover physically from the strains of a very long season. Probably not. But I couldn't sit at home and/or cross train any longer. While I enjoyed the rowing machine in the gym as a cardio alternative and as a good whole-body workout, it's not the same as running. Running is where my heart is.

Those 2 1/2 weeks were surely enough to make that clear again. In terms of motivation, it worked wonders. No race in the near future was planned anyway, as I decided not to participate in the Berlin marathon in September for which training would have started now. This decision was very deliberating, as I would have a whole long summer of just leisurely runs, as many or few as I wanted, as long or short as I wanted, just for the fun of it.

However, my leisurely summer running plan had to be abandoned at short notice. For a 10k race tonight. It's Ramadan. Here in Dubai eating and drinking is not allowed in public from sunrise to sunset. Naturally, all activities are scheduled between dusk and dawn. Like this crazy 10k race tonight. Start time is 1015pm, and huge prize money is involved. While there will not be any international elite runners, there will be prizes worth 1 million Dirhams (that's 200.000 EUR or 270.000 USD), and rumour has it that a few Mini Cooper cars have been thrown into the prizes too. The six categories include both male and female Emirati club runner, expat club runner, social runners and kids under 16.

That all sounds great, and if they spread the prizes over the first 10 of each category, I might stand a chance. Now the downside: it's the middle of summer in Dubai and temperatures at 9-10pm are still around 38C/100F. Not exactly ideal conditions to run 10k. Perhaps even a dangerously long distance for the untrained runner.

When I picked up my race pack last night, I saw who else signed up. The Who is Who of the Dubai running scene will be there. Gold diggers!!!!...... And I am one of them. Although I really will only have a chance if the Top 10 gets prizes.

So wish me luck. I'll keep you posted. Until then I leave you with our current family's favorite summer salad: Salade Niçoise. My favorite lunchtime salad if we eat out, as it is light enough for hot Dubaian summer days, yet has enough substance to be a main dish with the addition of potatoes, eggs and tuna. I hope you enjoy.
-------------------------------------------------------
SALADE NICOISE

(Print Recipe)

2 medium potatoes
150g/6oz green beens, trimmed

2 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
150g/6oz tinned Albacore tuna, drained

1/2 cup cucumber, sliced
1/4 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1/4 cup radishes, sliced
1/4 cup black olives

2-4 anchovy fillets

Lemon Mustard Dressing
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Serves 2
--------------------------------------------------------
Scrub the potatoes, and with the skin on, cut them into chunks. Cook them in boiling salted water until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.

In the meantime, steam the green beans, until just tender but still crisp, approx. 4-5 minutes. Put the beans into a bowl of iced water to stop the cooking process. That way you keep the green color. Once cooled, drain and put aside.

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients for the dressing. Whisk vigorously until well combined. Set aside.

Assemble potatoes, green beans, quartered eggs, tuna and salad ingredients next to each other on a plate. Sprinkle over the black olives and place the anchovy fillets onto the potatoes. . Drizzle over the lemon mustard dressing. Ready to eat.

TIP: all ingredients can be prepared in advance and kept in the fridge for up to 12 hours before assembling.
Continue Reading>>

18 June, 2014

Coconut Frozen Yogurt

Breaks are good. Change of scenery is good. Breaking out of your routine is good. Doing something different is good. Even if it's only temporary.
A running coach that I consulted about my tiredness and dwindling running motivation two months ago asked me when I last had a break? - A break from what? - From running?! - Errrhhhmmm....maybe in February for 5 days when I had a cold.....not sure....Before that I can't even remember. Probably another cold....
I can tell you, that wasn't good news. Me not running?! Dark times ahead for myself and all the people close to me. It took me two whole months until I found the time not to run. Crazy, isn't it? There was still a couple of races to get out the way before I could afford a running break for few weeks.

So for how long should I not run? Two weeks he said, or three. I might feel the urge to go for a run after a week. Hold back for another week, he advised. I was dreading it. But the good news, I don't have to sit at home and do nothing. I decided to focus on strength training. As I am not big on swimming or cycling, he recommended the rowing machine in the gym in order to not lose too much cardio fitness.


I have always ignored the rowing machine. It looked like like it would need a lot of upper body strength which I don't have and I struggle to get despite hard efforts in the gym. To my surprise, my efforts must have gotten me a bit further and I really do enjoy the rowing machine. It's a workout that strengthens legs and upper body at the same time plus I get some cardio in. The rowing machine has been my life saver. 10 days into my rest from running and I am not missing it at all. That means a lot.
With TRX classes, some weight training and the rowing machine there is not much time to get sluggish. I never thought a break from running could be so easy and challenging at the same time. My plan was not to run for three weeks. I am half way through and I am confident I will make it and it will do me good, both physically and mentally.
With all the strength training, I feel that I need to eat more these days. Regular meals don't fill me for long enough. An hour after dinner some sort of dessert has to be dished up. The  Football Soccer World Cup matches with  8pm and 11pm starts here in Dubai are just another excuse to enjoy a tub of ice cream on the sofa.

The healthy food blog world is full of coconut milk based ice creams. I have tried them and never really got to like them. I found them to thick and heavy and the coconut taste to overbearing. Something tart needed to cut through the coconut texture and flavor. So I combined it with yogurt. Now with the yogurt, it's not paleo or vegan anymore. But it is delicious. That I can assure. I hope you enjoy!
-------------------------------------------------------
COCONUT FROZEN YOGURT

(Print Recipe)


2 cups Greek yogurt (or 4 cups regular full fat yogurt)

1 can coconut milk, refrigerated
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup fresh grated coconut
1/4 cup raw powdered sugar

Serves 6-8

------------------------------------------------------
If you use regular whole milk yogurt, strain 4 cups of whole milk yogurt through a cheesecloth or clean kitchen towel for at least two hours. Discard the whey.
Mix the thick white parts of the refrigerated coconut milk into the strained/greek yogurt. Add vanilla extract, fresh coconut and sugar and mix until well combined.

Without  ice cream maker
Pour the yogurt mixture into a shallow bowl or pan. Freeze until almost solid, about 1-2 hours. Take out of the freezer, and thoroughly stir it with a fork. Put back into freezer and freeze again until almost solid. Scoop out the frozen mixture and place it into a food processor. Pulse until smooth. Transfer ice cream into a container suitable for freezing.

With ice cream maker
Transfer mixture to ice cream maker and follow its instructions. Transfer ice cream into a container suitable for freezing.

Cover and freeze until firm, about 2 hours. If you keep it frozen until completely solid, keep at room temperature to soften a bit before serving.
Continue Reading>>

29 May, 2014

Roasted Beetroot and Apple Salad

Not much wisdom to share today. Just a lovely summer salad of beetroot, apples and celery that I keep on making. The textures of these three ingredients provide layers, and so do their flavors: earthy from the beetroot, tart and fruity from the apple and that indescribable taste of celery just adds enough counterbalance to the rather sweet beetroot and apple. The lemon juice and honey in the dressing bring out all those flavors.

I love to make big batches of this salad and keep it in the fridge. You'll find me eating it straight out of the container standing in front of the fridge. That's how good and refreshing it is. Top it up with some crumbled feta cheese or roasted walnuts if you want to make it really fancy.
I hope you enjoy.

-----------------------------------------------
ROASTED BEETROOT AND APPLE SALAD

(Print Recipe)

4 medium beets
2 green apples
3 celery stalks

1 lemon, juice of

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
salt and pepper to taste

Garnish (optional)
crumbled feta cheese
chopped roasted walnuts

Serves  4
-----------------------------------------------
Preheat oven to 220C/430F.

Wash the beets and roast them in the oven until tender, depending on their size between 20 and 30 minutes. Set aside to let cool.

Meanwhile, core and thinly slice the apples. Cut the slices into matchsticks and toss them in the lemon juice. Cut the celery into matchsticks and add them to the apples.

Peel the beets, and cut them into matchsticks too. Add to apples and celery.

Whisk olive oil and honey together. Season with salt and pepper. Pour dressing over the salad and mix until well coated. Keep the salad refrigerated for at least 20 minutes for the flavors to combine. Best served cold.
Continue Reading>>

15 May, 2014

Lentil Pomegranate Salad with Cucumber Ribbons

Do you ever eat out with people in restaurants or cafes, and the people you are with order the smallest of salads or custumize-order a regular dish in a way so that's basically nothing left? Or when they order a regular dish, they tell you they feel full after having eaten less than half of it?

At the same time, these people don't look like they survive easily on cucumber and celery sticks. Many people seem to produce awkward manners when eating in public. They feel obliged to show a huge amount of self-control when it comes to food choices and portion size when they are feeling watched.

What are they trying to prove? A salad made of green leaves and fresh veggies may be healthy lunch choice. But every fool knows it will not last you until dinner. So prevent the mid-afternoon trip to the bakery next door,  to the soda machine or avoid the chocolate drawer at your desk by having a square meal.

That should apply to all meals in the day. Each of the three big meals should last you roughly or with just a small snack in between to the next big meal. It's proven that skipping a meal will just make you over-proportionally hungry at the next mealtime and you are more than likely to overeat. That gets you back to Square One. 

It takes a bit of discipline to stick to three main meals per day. But it should be the rule with just the occasional exception. It's not always practical as people commute, have busy jobs, kids to drop off and pick up, and family and other commitments.

Here is my offer for a square salad that is still light enough tio be enjoyed on warm summer days but has enough substance to last you through an afternoon. Earthy lentils, tart pomegranates with fresh cucumber and a good handful of chopped toasted walnuts held together by a tahini lemon dressing. I find the layers of flavors and textures absolutely tantalizing. I hope you do to. And please, tell me that you eat square meals, made out of good and real ingredients!

--------------------------------------------------------
LENTIL POMEGRANATE SALAD WITH CUCUMBER RIBBONS

(Print Recipe)

1 cup green lentils
2 1/2 cups water
1 bay leaf
salt

1 pomegranate, seeds of
2 small cucumbers

1/4 cup roasted walnuts, chopped

Dressing
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
salt and pepper to taste

Serves 2 as main, 4 as side dish
--------------------------------------------------------
Place lentils, water bay leaf and a dash of salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil, then simmer until lentils are cooked, about 15 minutes. Drain and remove bay leaf.

Meanwhile, deseed the pomegranate. Keep a bowl of water ready. Cut the pomegranate into quarters lengthwise.  Submerge one quarter of the pomegranate in the water bowl, pull apart the skin and nudge out the seeds into the water. Repeat with the other quarters. Little pieces of skin will float on top. Take these off before draining off the water. Set aside.

To make the cucumber ribbons, use a box grater and its largest hole. 

Cut the ends off the cucumber, then push lengthwise along the top of the grater, in long strokes for long, thin ribbons. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine tahini, olive oil and lemon juice. Whisk vigorously until well combined. The dressing may look curdled. Just whisk more. Add water until dressing reaches desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper. 

In a salad bowl, combine cooked lentils and pomegranates. Stir in the the dressing until salad is well coated. Gently fold in the cucumber ribbons. Sprinkle over the roasted walnuts. Serve cold or at room temperature.
Continue Reading>>