30 December, 2009

Homemade Marzipan




I know, I know, Christmas is just over, and many of us probably had quite a bit if not too much of the sweet stuff. But still: nothing is better than homemade sweets. I love giving away homemadesweets as presents. They are usually much appreciated.
What I like about giving away sweets is the fact that you can buy the ingredients in one shop (this is your supermarket or grocery store) and don't have to walk miles in shopping streets or malls to find an appropriate present. Another good thing is, that once you have all the ingredients at home you can make the sweets at any time of the day, be it 6am or 11pm.
Another bonus of giving away sweets is, that you can always make a few more and keep them for yourself!!! Right? Right!
I never really cared about the ingredients of sweet stuff. Now that I 've made a few at home, I checked the ingredients list of store-bought raw marzipan: full of stabilizers and all those E plus number ingredients. I am telling you: make it yourself. It takes no time. It doesn't need fancy ingredients. You will probably have them all at home. And they are mixed together faster than you fix your breakfast in the morning.

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HOMEMADE MARZIPAN

1 cup finely ground almonds or almond flour
1/2 egg white (about 11/2 tablespoons)
3/4 cup icing sugar

Flavoring
1 cap of rum or brandy (optional) OR
pinch of cinnamon (optional) OR
1 teaspoon grated orange peel (optional) OR
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Coating
cocoa powder
desiccated coconut
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Combine ground almonds and sugar in a food processor (using a steel blade) and process, adding just enough egg white to bind the sugar and the almonds together. Add flavoring according to your taste. Wrap the marzipan tightly in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge until it is being used.

To make little marzipan confections, roll marzipan into small balls (about the size of a cherry or walnut). Roll the ball in your preferred coating, like cocoa powder or desiccated coconut. Place them in the smallest size paper cake cases and serve.
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29 December, 2009

Tomato and Red Lentil Soup

I come straight to the point: this red lentil tomato soup is my absolute favorite soup. I could eat it everyday. Because some other family members may find that a little too often, I only dish it up once per week.

As some of you may know, we live in the Middle East, which has a tradition of using any sort of beans and lentils in the most delicious dishes. I had pure lentil soup ( a traditional Lebanese dish), which I love, but when I came across my first red lentil tomato soup, I forgot everything else.
What really works for me in this soup is the fact that the fruity fresh tomatoes lighten up the heavy lentils. Vice versa, the lentils make this dish a hearty long-lasting meal, whereas after a pure tomato soup I get hungry again two hours later.

Apart from the tomatoes and lentils, the most important ingredients are the spices: I got Indian home-made garam masala powder here, which already includes 40 something different types of chili, I was told. I believe that store-bought is not as hot. That's why I added some optional ground chilli powder to the recipe. This soup needs to be spicy.

The final touches can be done in the serving bowl. Yogurt is a good and low-fat alternative to heavy cream to make the soup a little smoother. Coconut milk or cream gives this soup an extra tweak that sweetly softens the otherwise spicy soup. At the same time it's not an overbearing flavor in the soup, rather works in the background.

If you rather spice up your soup even more and into another direction, put sumac on. The sumac plant grows in the Mediterranean countries and the Middle east. Its dark red berries are ground and used as spices. It's got tart, tangy, salty and bitter at the same time. In the Middle East it is often used in salads on breads and for meat marinades. Sprinkled over the  tomato and lentil soup it gives the chilli-based spiciness more depth.
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TOMATO AND RED LENTIL SOUP

(Print Recipe)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 sticks of celery, chopped
6 big ripe tomatoes, chopped
4 cups of vegetable stock
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon ground chilli (optional)
salt to taste

1 cup red lentils
1/2 cup coconut milk
1-2 tablespoons sumac (optional)

Serves 4
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Heat the olive oil in a deep pan over medium heat. Fry the onions until softened and lightly brown, about 5 minutes. Add celery and garlic. Cook for another 2-3 minutes. Stir in garam masala and chili and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Now add the chopped tomatoes, vegetables stock and bring to a boil. Season with salt and let simmer for about 20 minutes. Let cool.

Puree the tomato soup, then put back in the soup pot. Now add the red lentils. Cook the lentils in the tomato soup for about 15 minutes, or until tender, but not mushy. Season with sumac. Stir in coconut milk. Ready to serve.
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26 December, 2009

Bulgur and Walnut Kibbeh

Today was definitely my worst day with regards to overeating at Christmas. We were invited to a Christmas lunch potluck thing at friends. They are Polish, so they had quite a few Polish traditional meals on the buffet table, we added two salads, more salads came from other guests. The dessert was an oven baked apple filled with cinnamon, raisins and butter with some vanilla ice cream on top. After all that, I decided that it wouldn't make much of a difference if I also tried bits and pieces of lovely homemade Christmas cookies, coffee cakes etc. that other people brought. I am feeling a bit like a sausage now. The only thing that makes me feel a little less guilty is the fact that I squeezed in a 6 mile run before we went to the Christmas lunch.
Anyway, Christmas is over now. It was only one day of excessive eating. From tomorrow on everything will be back to normal. I have lots of nutritious and delicious recipes waiting to be cooked. Santa brought me a new camera to photograph my kitchen masterpieces. And here is my starter, literally speaking: a tasty and small vegetarian appetizer, to start a nice meal or to have for lunch. A good start to get back to healthy eating after days of gluttony. A lovely party snack if you plan a New Year's Eve party....
.............Bulgur and Walnut Kibbeh. These balls originate from the Middle East and are usually made with bulgur and minced meat. I liked the combination of grains and nuts, as it is much lighter and the garlic and lemon taste comes out much better. I found this recipe in the NY Times, and tweaked it just a little bit. The original recipe calls for 2 garlic cloves. I would reduce that to one, as raw garlic tends to repeat on me for several hours after consumption which can be a little annoying.
In my opinion, these balls also call for a little dip. I liked a tangy Tahini Soy dip, when other family members preferred a light and fresh tomato salsa dip. The kibbeh can be prepared well in advance and keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days.
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BULGUR AND WALNUT KIBBEH

3/4 cup fine bulgur
1 garlic cloves, halved, green shoots removed
Salt to taste
1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint
Freshly ground pepper to taste
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Tahini Dressing
1 tablespoon Tahini
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 dash black pepper, ground
1/2 tablespoon ginger, ground
1 tablespoon plain yogurt (low fat or fat free are fine)
1-2 tablespoon water (optional)

Yields about 20
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Place the bulgur in a bowl, add salt to taste and pour 1,5 cups of boiling water on top. Let sit for one hour, then drain and squeeze out excess water.
Mince the garlic, add salt to taste. Then stir into the bulgur. Add the walnuts, olive oil, parsley, mint, pepper, cinnamon and the lemon juice. Moisten your hands and knead the mixture for a couple of minutes, then allow to sit for 15 to 30 minutes.
With moistened fingers, form the bulgur mixture into bite-size balls. Serve immediately or keep in the fridge.

For the dressing, combine all ingredients and mix until well combined. Add water to thin the mixture.

The Very Best Of Recipes for Health: 250 Recipes and More from the Popular Feature on NYTimes.com 
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24 December, 2009

White Christmas Cookies


I love recipes with very little ingredients. There is always a good chance that you have all of them at home and you can throw together a meal, or in this case, a cookie, in no time.
These cookies were a staple at Christmas during my childhood. We used to eat tons of them. This is the first time that I made them myself: they are amazingly easy to bake and absolutely delicious. I threw my healthy & nutritious food beliefs overboard for these (just look at the sugar content) because I think they are really worth it. Husband got addicted after the first cookie. Perhaps because he hasn't had a homemade biscuit with sugar in for ages...... :-) Merry Christmas to everyone! May peace, joy and happiness be with you and your loved ones!
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WHITE CHRISTMAS COOKIES

4 egg whites
200g walnut meal (or other nut meal, I used almond or hazelnut and it worked fine)
150g sugar
20-25 whole nuts to garnish (almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts)
20-25 wafer papers for baking

Yields 20-25
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Preheat oven to 150C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread 20-25 wafer papers on the baking sheet. Set aside.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Slowly add the sugar little by little, Keep whisking. The mixture should still be stiff. Gently fold in the the nut meal. Put one heaped teaspoon of the batter on each wafer paper. Garnish with whole nuts. Bake for about 25-30 minutes. The baking is more a drying of the biscuits than baking. The cookies should still be soft to the touch but more on the dry side. Let cool. Keep in airtight container.
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22 December, 2009

Red Cabbage with Apples

As long as I can remember, red cabbage has been THE major side dish for special occasions in my family, be it family birthday or anniversary meals, Easter or Christmas. It came along with anything from Sunday roast, chicken, duck, goose, rabbit or venison.
To me, the red cabbage was always more important than the meat part of the meal. I love its sweet a fruity flavor spiced with cloves and pimento. 

Now 25-30 years later, I am preparing it for my own family for big occasions, like the upcoming Christmas lunch. It's easier said than done, as red cabbage can be very bland if not spiced up properly.  This recipe gets the flavor spot-on, and I am glad I got my little international family to like my very German side dish preferences for big meals too.
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RED CABBAGE WITH APPLES

(Print Recipe)

2 tablespoons of lard (alternatively butter)
1 big onion, finely chopped

1kg red cabbage
2 green sour apples (Granny Smith always works fine)
1 bay leaf
4 pimento (that is whole allspice)
6-8 cloves
2 tablespoons of sugar
salt
2 tablespoons white vinegar or lemon juice
2 heaped tablespoons cranberry jelly
1 cup of water (or more)

Serves 8-10
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Remove outer leaves and thick stems from the red cabbage. Shred the cabbage or cut finely. Peel the onion and chop finely. Peel and core the apples, cut into small cubes.

In a heavy-bottomed pot heat the lard or butter, add the onions and fry until golden over medium heat. Add the shredded red cabbage and cook for 5 minutes. Stir frequently. Add cubed apples, bay leaf, cloves, salt, sugar, vinegar, cranberry jelly and water and cook over low to medium heat for about 45min to 1 hour. Stir occasionally and add little water if necessary. Season with salt, sugar and vinegar. Better the next day. Freezes well.
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Coconut Cherry Cocoa Balls

I have developed a weakness for sweets in ball shape. They disappear in your mouth so quickly, you  have immediately forgotten that you actually ate them. So it happened again yesterday when I pulled these Coconut Cherry Cocoa Balls out of the oven. I think I had about eight or ten of them .... yes, I felt a little guilty. To prevent me from eating the whole batch (which was about 25 balls), I dropped a few at a friends' house around the corner. She later send me a message talking about them as "Little Drops of Heaven".
And this is what they are: a lovely little dessert, with a rich and dense chocolate taste topped with some fruity and tart dried cherries, lightened up with creamy and sweet coconut. DELICIOUS.
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COCONUT CHERRY COCOA BALLS

1 3/4 cups sweetened shredded coconut (divided)
2/3 cup cream of coconut
2 large egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
salt
1/2 cup dried cherries, coarsely chopped

Yields 20-25
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 Heat oven to 160C.

Spread 1 1/2 cups of the shredded coconut on a baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until coconut begins to turn golden brown. Set aside.

In a bowl, whisk together cream of coconut, cocoa, egg whites, vanilla, and salt until well combined. Add dried cherries and the baked coconut and stir until well combined. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled and firm, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 160C.
Line a heavy baking sheet with parchment paper. With damp hands, Shape small amounts of the batter into balls, about the size of a walnut. Place the balls on the baking sheet, a little apart apart. Top each ball with a pinch of the remaining untoasted coconut. Bake in the middle shelf of the oven for about 20 minutes, or  until the balls are no longer sticky outside but the insides still feel somewhat soft when poked with a finger. Let cool. They keep very well in the fridge.
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20 December, 2009

Smoky Black Bean Soup


These days that I almost non-stop cook (and food-photograph and food-blog) I always have some dried beans soaking somewhere, ready to be cooked and used  in some salad and or dinner. I must say that many of my bean dishes that I have tried int he last few months have become regular dishes here. They taste great, can be combined with just anything, and on top of all that are so healthy and nutritious.
I love hearty soups and stews in winter, especially when beans are involved. Now in winter it is just the perfect time to make a big pot of soup that gets better by the day (not that our stews would ever have a chance to get that old).
This recipe here is loosely based on the Black Bean Soup from Simply Recipes. I replaced the ham hock by bacon, simply because the pork selection here in the Middle East is somewhat limited. The original recipe was asking for molasses which I tried once and did not like. I omitted it completely. To me the cumin and the chili do all the work in this soup and make it a lovely spicy soup. The bacon gives it a wonderful smoky taste that goes really well with the beans.
As most bean stews, it takes some time to prepare. But as these dishes get better the next day, it may be wise to prepare them in advance. I know for sure that this bean soup will be a regular dish in this house too.

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SMOKY BLACK BEAN SOUP

2 cups dried black beans
8 slices smoked bacon
2 bay leaves
5 cups water
1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 sweet potato, chopped into bite sizes
1 carrot, chopped into bite sizes
2 celery rib, chopped into bite sizes
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground chilli
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock stock
1 bell pepper, red or yellow, chopped into bite size
salt

yogurt (OR sour cream OR creme fraiche)
chopped fresh herbs (parsley or coriander)


Serves 4-6
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Soak the dried black beans in 4 cups of water for at least 6 hours or overnight. Rinse and drain.

Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the black beans, 5 cups of water, bay leaves and 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to boil, then simmer covered over medium heat for 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes or until beans are tender.

Heat olive oil in a big pan. Over medium heat stir in onions, sweet potato, carrots, celery and salt. Cook until vegetables are softened, about 10-15 minutes. Add spices and the garlic and keep stirring for 1 or 2 minutes.

Now combine the complete bean and bacon mixture to the vegetables. Add chicken/vegetable stock and bell pepper. Bring to boil, then simmer on low heat for another 20 minutes.

Remove about one third of the soup and blend it to a puree before adding it back to the soup. Serve hot with sour cream or yogurt and chopped herbs like parsley or coriander.
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18 December, 2009

Chocolate Tahini Truffles





Here in the Middle East, Christmas is not as predominant as the main religion is Islam. Nevertheless, as there is a huge expatriate community here in Dubai, all sorts of Christmas stuff (from trees...plastic though.... over turkey to sweets and whatever else you fancy) is widely available.
I am still sort of grateful to the fact that I don't get completely bombarded with Christmas songs and sweets and things from end of October on (I remember this being the case back home in Germany). Especially the food side of Christmas can be quite overloading if you know what I mean.
Anyway, here in Dubai I managed to stay clear of stuffing myself  with Christmas sweets. Instead I was looking for alternative recipes (hopefully to be made at home) that can combine Christmas with typical Middle Eastern ingredients.
Then I found tahini. Tahini is sesame paste. I searched some sweet recipes made of tahini and these tahini-based chocolate truffles are exactly what I was looking for: some decadent and very rich little sweets. You only eat one (or two) at a time and they make you absolutely happy. Isn't that the perfect sweet? On top of that, it only has four ingredients and it is naturally sweet without any added sugar. It doesn't need cooking or baking. It keeps in the fridge for ages. Although I can promise you that they will be eaten faster than you might imagine.
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CHOCOLATE TAHINI TRUFFLES

(Print Recipe)

2 cups tahini (sesame paste)
3/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup pitted dried dates
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
agave syrup (optional)

finely chopped almonds
finely chopped pistachios
sesame seeds
desiccated coconut

Yields ca. 25-30
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Combine tahini, raisins, dates and cocoa powder in a food processor and blend until very smooth. If the mixture is too crumbly add water by the tablespoon. If the batter is not sweet enough, add some agave syrup.
Roll the batter into small balls. Coat each ball with either coconut, sesame seeds or chopped nuts. Refrigerate or freeze the balls for at least an hour before serving.
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17 December, 2009

Paul's Farmer Salad



This salad is my version of the salade fermiere, sold at Paul Cafe, a French bakery chain with outlets in parts of Europe, America and the Middle East. I had it the other day for lunch, and just loved the combination of foods: crunchy green leaves, sweet apple and raisins, warm grilled chicken slices, fresh shredded carrots topped with walnut halves and grated cheese.
What I like most about this salad is that you can vary the amount of your favorite ingredients according to your taste. Mine would have lots of apple, nuts and raisins. My husband is not big on sweet stuff in savory food, so his one would have more chicken and carrots.
The grilled chicken was served hot on the salad which definitely contributed to the salad. The meat pieces were rather big (bigger than on my photo) so their kept warm a little longer than bite-sized pieces on this rather big plate of salad.
A healthy and filling timeless salad with a wonderful variety of flavors and tastes.
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PAUL'S FARMER SALAD

50g mixed salad leaves
1 carrot, grated
1 apple, cored and sliced thinly
6 tablespoons walnut halves
6 tablespoons golden raisins
50g grated cheese
1 grilled chicken breast, sliced (and still warm)

Dressing
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon white balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt

Serves 2
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Arrange all salad ingredients on a big plate, starting with the salad leaves at the bottom, topped with apples and warm chicken pieces. Arrange the carrots and cheese in the middle of the plate. Sprinkle raisins and nut around the edge of the plate.

Combine all ingredients for the the dressing. Pour over the salad and serve immediately.
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15 December, 2009

Healthy Christmas Breakfast Cake


My favorite ingredient when Christmas baking is orange zest. I love its smell. Even if I just eat an orange I like to leave the peel lying around for an hour or two and the whole room will become fragrant with orange. The zest gives such a lovely tangy flavor to bakery goods. Combined with cranberries and some nuts it gives the ultimate Christmas flavor.
This healthy Christmas breakfast cake contains all that: I used pistachios as I like the green color in contrast to the red cranberries. The cake can easily stay without icing, but I love the thick white layer on the cake that looks like fresh snow.
It is a truly no-guilt cake, as it uses buttermilk, canola oil and whole wheat flour. We love it as breakfast cake and I indulge another thick slice with my afternoon tea. In fact, I am just having the last slice as I am writing this....
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HEALTHY CHRISTMAS BREAKFAST CAKE

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup agave syrup
4 tablespoons canola oil

1 cup cranberry, chopped
1 cup pistachio kernels, chopped
grated zest of one big orange

ICING
200g low fat cream cheese
5 tablespoons agave syrup 

Yields 1 loaf
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Preheat oven to 180C. Grease a loaf pan or line it with parchment paper.

Combine all wet ingredients and mix well.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Stir in the the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Don't over mix. Fold in orange zest, cranberries and pistachios.
Transfer the batter to the loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes or until bread tests done. Let cool on a wire rack.

Combine cream cheese and agave syrup. Once cake has cooled, put a thick layer of cream cheese on top of the cake. Let become solid before serving.
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13 December, 2009

Spaghetti with Clams and Mushrooms



I love the fact that so many pasta sauces and toppings are done much faster than the pasta itself. 
This one is a quick and lovely pasta and seafood dish that works well for weekday dinners.
We love our fresh seafood, but clams are one of the few things that we also use tinned (especially weekdays). For this dish, you just need some fresh mushrooms and some herbs (although dried ones will suffice too I guess). All other ingredients you may find in the depths of your pantry, and ready will be a tasty and healthy dinner within 30 minutes.

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SPAGHETTI WITH CLAMS AND MUSHROOMS

400g spaghetti

3+1 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 dried red chili pepper, finely chopped 
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
salt and pepper

2 can of clams, drained (liquid reserved)
1/2 cup of dry white wine

1 tablespoon butter
250g button mushrooms, sliced

3 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Serves 3-4
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Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large iron skillet over medium heat. Add the chili pepper, onion and garlic. Cook slowly until the onions are very soft. Add the basil, oregano, salt and pepper, wine, and clam liquid. Continue to simmer until reduced somewhat. Keep warm.
Meanwhile, saute the mushrooms in a tablespoon of butter and add to mixture.

Bring large pot of water to boil. Add a tablespoon of salt and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Cook spaghetti until just al dente.

As pasta is cooking, add the clams 3 tablespoons of cheese to the sauce and simmer on low for about 5 minutes. After draining, stir the pasta into the sauce and toss. Continue to fry and toss for several minutes. Serve immediately.
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12 December, 2009

Leek Bacon Whole Wheat Tart

Savory tarts and quiches are perfect winter comfort foods. Now that winter (note: that is Dubai winter with around 20C) and some rain have finally arrived, I felt like making some tart.  After I saw many Brussels sprouts and bacon recipes popping up in the food blogs recently, I thought that would be a nice tart filling combination.
Unfortunately, I didn't get any Brussels sprouts on that particular day, so I threw in leeks instead. The result was a real success. The crust is probably the most important part of the whole thing as it is the actual comfort food. It turned out really well with the measures listed below using whole wheat flour. The filling was a very tasty combination of the rather mild leeks spiced up with smoky bacon. I am not a vegetarian, but I don't like meat-loaded dishes. Bacon is a good way of getting some meaty flavors into a dish, without using much of it. That way, the dish keeps light and easy to digest.
I also like the fact that the whole thing is held together by a light and rather low-calorie mixture of milk and a couple of eggs.
We'll definitely have more tarts soon, and explore different tart fillings. I guess you can use whatever vegetable(s) you fancy and even omit the bacon if you prefer a vegetarian tart, by spicing it up with herbs and spices.

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LEEK BACON WHOLE WHEAT TART

(Print Recipe)

Tart Crust
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil

Tart Filling
6 slices of smoked bacon
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 big leeks, cut into rings
1 big onion, chopped
salt
pepper
nutmeg, freshly ground
1/2 cup low-fat milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup grated cheese

Serves 4
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Preheat oven to 200C/400F.

Spread the oats and sesame seeds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 8 minutes. Transfer oats and sesame seeds to the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add flour and salt. Process until the oats are finely ground.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the water and oil. Slowly add the oil mixture to the flour mixture in the food processor. Blend until it forms a dough.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface. Put the dough in the tart pan. Press it  down evenly, making sure to fill in the fluted sides of the pan. Trim the tart of any excess dough. Prick the dough with a fork. Prebake for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 180C/375F.

Place the bacon strips (fat parts cut off) on a baking tray and cook them in the oven until crisp, about 10 minutes. Turn them over halfway.
Heat one tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in pan that has a lid. Saute the chopped onion until golden brown. Add the leek rings and saute for another 3-4 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Keep stirring. Add a few tablespoons (about 1/8 of a cup) of water to the leek mixture, put the lid on the pan and cook over high heat until leek is soft, about 3 minutes. All water should have disappeared from the bottom of the pan.

Combine egg and milk in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Stir well. Pour the milk mixture over the leeks mixture.
Sprinkle grated cheese onto the pre-baked tart crust. Pour the leeks milk mixture on top and sprinkle more cheese on top. Bake the tart for 20-30 minutes.  Let settle for another 5-10 minutes before serving.
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07 December, 2009

Crunchy Coconut Cranberry Granola


 
I was looking for some new breakfast dish, as I got a little tired of warm oatmeals, millet or quinoa breakfasts recently. I felt like something cool in the morning: plain yogurt with fresh fruit was good for a start, but it needed some hearty crunchiness. I went to try homemade granola. I never made it before, I only knew the ready made ones from the supermarket. They didn't tickle my fancy. 

Now this is my first homemade granola. I would have never thought what difference it makes. It is so much better when it is freshly made. Just the fragrance of it is so convincing that I will never ever buy ready made muesli again.

It's so easy and fast to make. I am usually well equipped with all sorts of grains, nuts, seeds and dried fruit. For the granola, I had all the ingredients at home and decided to give it a go with coconut and cranberries. It gives you lots of opportunities to mix in whatever you fancy: e.g rolled spelt, various other dried fruit, any nuts you like.
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CRUNCHY COCONUT CRANBERRY GRANOLA

2 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup wheat bran
1/4 cup desiccated coconut
1/2 cup chopped almonds

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons honey (or agave syrup for a vegan version)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 dried apricots, chopped
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Preheat oven to 180C. In bowl, combine oats, wheat bran, coconut and almonds. Spread the mixture onto baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes in preheated oven until lightly toasted. Transfer back to a bowl and let cool.
In a saucepan combine coconut oil, vegetable oil maple syrup and honey. Cook over medium heat until it comes to a boil. Keep stirring. Boil for a couple of minutes. hen add the vanilla extract. Pour the syrup over the oat mixture in the bowl and stir until evenly coated.
Spread the mixture onto a baking sheet and bake for another 8 minutes, or until fragrant. Let cool, then stir in the dried fruit.
Store in airtight container at room temperature.
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06 December, 2009

Sugar Plums (Fruit And Nut Balls)


These lovely little balls almost look too good to be healthy and delicious, don't they? They are pure energy balls made solely out of various dried fruits and nuts. No baking or cooking involved. You just have to decide which dried fruits or nuts you fancy, roll them in your favorite topping and put them in the fridge for a couple of hours and they will be ready to eat. No more to this than that.
You can certainly spice them up or give them a little Christmas flavor by adding some spices or alcohol. I can promise you they will be a popular dessert on any Christmas gathering. And even beyond that (as I don't feel very Christmassy yet), they are a good sweet treat to keep in the fridge, if you have any sugar cravings or need a bit of instant energy and don't want to behead a big chocolate Santa.......
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SUGAR PLUMS (FRUIT AND NUT BALLS)

1/4 cup almonds, chopped
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup dried dates, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup dried prunes, pitted and chopped
hot water
2 teaspoons brandy, orange liqueur or orange juice (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (optional)

Topping
sesame seeds
desiccated unsweetened coconut
cocoa powder

Makes ca. 20
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Preheat oven to 180C. Toast chopped nuts for about 8-10 minutes or until fragrant. Let cool a little. 

Soak the raisins in hot water for about 15 minutes, or until plump. Drain.

Combine raisins, nuts and all other ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until finely minced. Add some water or orange juice (by the tablespoon) if the batter does not hold together.
Shape little balls of about 1 inch diameter out of that mixture. Press the dough so the ingredients hold together. Roll each ball in the desired topping. Place the balls in small muffin liners. Let the balls air-dry in the refrigerator for about 1-2 hours, or until they are no longer sticky.
Serve them cold (from the fridge or at room temperature). Store in airtight container between wax paper or in mini muffin liners.
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04 December, 2009

Coconut Date Swirls

My latest culinary revelation comes with two warnings: Coconut and dried dates are a pairing made in heaven. Warning #1: It's highly addictive. Warning #2: I will surely explore all sorts of recipes containing these two ingredients and post them here.
I had this coconut cookie recipe and wanted to replace the refined sugar with dried fruit. I had dried dates at hand. That was all it took. The tangy date flavor works beautifully with the light coconut taste. All other ingredients are natural healthy too, so you can actually eat these cookies for breakfast.


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COCONUT DATE SWIRLS

5 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 cup of dried dates, pitted
3 tablespoons of agave syrup
1 egg
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup of grated unsweetened coconut
3/4 cup rolled oats (quick cooking)
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Serves ca. 20
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Preheat oven to 180C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine pitted dates, coconut oil, egg, vanilla extract and salt in a food processor and blend until smooth.
In a separate bowl, combine oats, flour,  and baking powder. Add the wet ingredients to the dry  mixture and stir until well combined.
 Use a piping bag to make swirls out of the dough. Alternatively, drop tablespoons of dough onto the baking sheet, leaving a little space between them. Sprinkle some coconut flakes over the cookies for garnish. Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.
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