28 December, 2010

Garlic Green Beans

Is it time again again to bring up the topic of New Year resolutions?
I have never really been a big believer in New Year resolutions. In fact, I don't really give much about the New Year fuss itself, as my life does not happen in 365-day-slices. There is projects that take longer or shorter than this. That's how I count my life.
However, I was just checking my blog posts from a year ago to see if I had any New Year resolutions that I could recap now. In fact, I had!!! Even food blogging related: I wanted to improve my food photo skills in a way that they would be accepted at Foodgawker etc. 360 something days later I can proudly say I have succeeded. Honestly, I think I learned a lot about how to shoot food in an aesthetic and appetizing way. And I can proudly say, it's all self-taught. Or in a more down-to-earth-way: I learned from my mistakes.
One other New Year plan was running my first ever full marathon in 2010. Unfortunately, that didn't happen as I chose a too fancy place. And out of purely logistic reasons we couldn't go there with the whole family at that time of the year. I had to cancel it 2 months in advance.

Now what is the New Year supposed to bring if I had three wishes? Well, I registered for the Dubai marathon which is on 21 January 2011. I can almost walk to the starting line, so nothing will stop me to get there. I hope I will complete this race (first wish), and I hope I will finish it in a good time (second wish) for a first-time marathon. And otherwise, I just want my family, friends and myself be happy and fulfilled with whatever we do or aim to achieve (third wish).

Alright, all this being said, how am I gonna turn the subject to the actual recipe of this post, Garlic Green Beans? Perhaps, another New Year resolution for 2011 should be to improve my writing skills. I sometimes feel that my posts read a bit like a bumpy road, but I don't have the patience or creativity in me to change that on the spot. I should work on that.

I don't think there is an elegant way to turn the conversation from New Year resolutions to Green Beans. So let's forget about that and let's just talk about the Green Beans. It's been one of my favorite side dishes over the last few weeks for several reasons. It's cooked in 5 minutes. It's full of color. It's full of flavor. I love the combination of garlic and green beans supported by salty olives and tart sun-dried tomatoes. It is a great side dish to any grilled meat or fish. Or if you want to go vegetarian (in this case even vegan), have it on top of brown rice, bulgur wheat or buckwheat.

250g/8oz green beans, trimmed and cut in halves
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes (ca. 4 pieces)
2 tablespoons black olives, pitted and sliced
salt to taste

Serves 2-4
Place sun-dried tomatoes in a small bowl. Pour boiling water over them and let stand while preparing the rest of the dish.

In a large pan (that can be covered with a lid), heat olive oil over medium heat. Add minced garlic and cook for a minute while stirring constantly. Make sure the garlic does not get burned. Add the green beans to the garlic oil and cook for another 2 minutes or so. Season lightly with salt.
Add 4 tablespoons of water, put on the lid, and increase heat to medium high. Let cook for 2 minutes stirring occasionally, until beans are tender. Take off the heat.

Drain the tomatoes. Cut into slices or chop. Add them along with the olives to the green beans. Transfer to serving bowl. Serve immediately.
Continue Reading>>

25 December, 2010

Walnut Prune Truffles

Merry Christmas to everyone! I wish you all some lovely holidays and the best for 2011.
Our Christmas is as good as over. That's me at 8pm at night, with the kids being up just after 6am and the giving of the presents starting at 7am.  It was a nice and relaxed day. The children loved their presents, and as we had no guests we just went through the day as it happened, without pressure to perform. Our Christmas lunch cooked all by itself in the oven, apart from a few side dishes, some of which could be prepared in advance. That's the way I love it, and that's how Christmas should be.
Because we live in a Muslim country, it is pure luck that Christmas Day is falling on a weekend and we can be at home together. Tomorrow life goes on as usual and back at work, as weekends in the Middle East are Friday/Saturdays.
Most probably the rest of the world will celebrate Christmas a little longer than us. That's why I will hold back my healthy salad recipes today and save them until we talk New Year resolutions in a few days time :-) Having said that, I actually don't think that Christmas meals are unhealthy in general. To me it's more a question of portion size/portion control.
Instead I'd like to share another dessert with you: Walnut Prune Truffles. They are rich and sweet. I love the tart flavor of the prunes mixing with sweet dates and some dark cocoa. They are raw, they are vegan. I made them about a year ago for the first time. Every few months I get a craving for them. I've made a box of them just before Christmas. And when this post is published I will settle down with the rest of it on the sofa with a nice Christmas movie and treat myself. Merry Christmas again. Let peace and happiness come to all of you.


1/2 cup prunes, pitted
1/2 cup dried dates, pitted
1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder + more to coat
2 tablespoons honey or agave syrup

Ground walnuts to coat (optional)

Yields 20-25
In a food processor, combine all ingredients. Pulse until mixture is well combined. Form cherry-sized balls out of the mixture. If it seems too dry to form, add a little water (no more than a teaspoon at a time) and pulse again in the food processor. Roll balls in cocoa powder or ground walnuts. Place in mini muffin liners. Keep in airtight container in the fridge. Leave at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.
Continue Reading>>

21 December, 2010

Gingerbread Cookies

Four more sleeps until Christmas. My son is counting the days. Yesterday, we had a Christmas party for the children in the neighborhood. The kids were decorating Christmas cookies and writing their letter to Santa. One granddad dressed up as Santa and brought little presents.
The kids love it, and I enjoy them having so much fun. A friend of mine told me that on Christmas Eve they put a plate with Christmas cookies and and a glass of milk onto the window sill or balcony for Santa, in case he would be hungry. In the morning on Christmas Day, the glass of milk would be empty and Santa had a bite or two of the Christmas cookies, and of course, he left the gifts under the tree. I love that. I think we will do that too.
I will offer Santa my Gingerbread cookies. These cookies put me back to the times when I was a kid waiting for Santa. I baked numerous batches in the last few days, as I chomp down half a dozen myself with a glass of milk, just like Santa.


2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground cloves
1 pinch ground nutmegs
1/2 cup palm sugar
100g/4 oz unsalted butter
1 egg, beaten
4 tablespoons unsulphured molasses 

Yields 20-30 cookies (depending on size)
Sift together flour with baking soda and spices. Stir in the sugar. Cut butter into small pieces. With your fingers,  rub butter into the flour mixture until it resembles a coarse meal.

In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg. Add the molasses and stir until combined.
Combine wet and dry ingredients and knead until well combined. The result should be a rather firm dough. Form a disc out of the dough and wrap tightly in cling film. Keep refrigerated for at least an hour.

Preheat oven to 190C/375F. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Take the dough from the fridge and let it soften at room temperature. Once it's soft enough to roll, remove cling film.
On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough until its about 1/4 inch/5mm thick. Cut cookies with your favorite cookie cutters and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 8-10 minutes, or until golden. Let cool completely on wire rack, before decorating with your favorite icing. Or eat them just plain.
Continue Reading>>

19 December, 2010

Indian Spice Nuts

 Before I pester you with yet another Christmas cookie recipe (be sure it will come BEFORE Christmas), I'd like to offer you an alternative to the notoriously sugary and buttery things that we eat in huge amounts BECAUSE it is Christmas. I don't blame anyone. I can say for myself that Christmas cookie baking and eating is contagious. Everyone does it, the shelves in the supermarkets are full, and I even get a little competitive when trying to bake THE BEST EVER Christmas cookie, in the hope for praise for my exceptional baking skills. And once they are baked, you can as well just eat them, right?

However, here is an alternative. Since my childhood I have always associated Christmas with nuts. Only at Christmas we would have nuts in their shells and we would spend afternoons in the living room cracking nuts with a old-fashioned nut cracker and eat them together with small pieces of marzipan.

Nuts are full of goodness, and prepared in the right way, can be a truly amazing and delicious dessert or snack. These nuts are roasted in a pan and coated with the thinnest layer of sugar, just enough to make the most exciting spice mix hold on to them. Be prepared for a snack that is sweet and salty, savory and spicy at the same time. A delicious, satisfying and healthy snack that can surely keep up with all the other healthy and not so healthy Christmas treats.

(Print Recipe)

1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon black sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 cup almonds
1 cup hazelnuts
2-3 tablespoons palm sugar
In a small skillet, toast coriander, fennel, mustard seeds, peppercorns, sesame and cumin seeds for a few minutes, or until they start to pop. Shake continuously throughout this process. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a minute or two. Place in mortar and pestle (or spice grinder) and process until coarsely ground. Place in a small container and stir in  salt and cayenne pepper.

In large pan, combine nuts and sugar over medium high heat. Stir frequently until sugar starts to melt. Lower heat, and stir continuously for 10 minutes, or until sugar starts to fully melt and cover nuts. Add spice mixture and continue to cook for an additional 30 seconds, until nuts are well glazed and pepper is well mixed in. Pour onto sheet of wax paper on a cooling rack and spread out. Allow to cool. Store in tightly-sealed container.
Continue Reading>>

15 December, 2010

Snowball Cookies

Less than two weeks to go until Christmas!! I am still struggling a bit to get into the festive mood. Perhaps it's because we have to combine so many traditions. Germans, for instance, put up their Christmas tree on Christmas Eve in the morning. The German Santa brings presents on Christmas Eve in the evening (so from Christmas Day on we can focus on food). Germans also celebrate the four Advent Sundays before Christmas by lighting a candle of the advent wreath each Sunday. Here in Dubai you only get wreaths with three candles. As everything is ready-made and out of plastic (as conifers don't grow in this region), there is no chance you can do one yourself with four candles. My husband is South African. They pretty much do what the English do (if I may say so) for Christmas. But husband has got Portuguese roots too. Apparently they put up their Christmas tree on 16 December. That's tomorrow.
Over dinner tonight we have agreed on this: Christmas tree up tomorrow according to Portuguese tradition. Santa will come on Christmas Day according to South African tradition, but actually more for practical reasons, as the kids will get outdoor toys or stuff that needs time to set up. Better to be done in the morning than at night. 
No idea yet what we'll have for Christmas lunch. I'll make some simple Christmas cookies as we have organized a little Xmas party for the kids in the neighborhood, that the kids can decorate with icing and sprinkles. 
For the parents I'll make another batch of these highly addictive snowball cookies. It's an amazingly simple recipe with no-fuss ingredients, little sugar and amazing in taste. These delicious cookies deserve to be baked and eaten by as many people as possible. To me they are the ultimate must-try Christmas cookies.


(Print Recipe)

1 cup whole wheat flour (or buckwheat flour if you want it gluten free)
1 1/2 cups walnuts, finely chopped
3 tablespoons palm sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
100g/4oz unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Yields 20-25
Preheat oven to 160C/300F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. 
Mix flour, walnuts, salt, sugar in a large bowl. Add the vanilla extract. Cut butter into little pieces. Rub the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles a coarse meal. Form the dough into small balls (approx. size of a walnut) and place on the baking sheet. Leave some space between the cookies on the sheet.
Bake for 30-35 minutes. While they are still warm, but cool enough to touch, roll the cookies in some powdered sugar. Set aside on a rack to cool completely. When cool, dust again in powdered sugar.
Continue Reading>>

12 December, 2010

Pasta with Arugula Pesto

Hey, do you want to know how my Dubai winter veggie and flower garden is doing? It's going great. The usual suspects are up and about, like basil, tomato plants and sunflowers. Those are the plants that I know would grow under any circumstances (which include days of neglect). Others are having are difficult start, but seem to decide to bear with me: mint, chilis, green and fava beans, water melon and a few flowers. Yet others will not bear fruit during my lifetime if they keep on growing so slowly: oregano, thyme, strawberry, rosemary. 
But the most rewarding vegetable so far was arugula. I have about a square meter of arugula growing in my garden, far too much to just put into salads. So I made pesto out of it some time back and kept it in the fridge. The other day, I had an incredible appetite for a pasta lunch (it was the day after my Half Marathon race and I was obviously still needing carbs to help my tired muscles recover from the race). What's easier than mixing pasta with a little pesto that is waiting to be used!!! Throw in some sun-dried tomatoes for some zing and toasted pine nuts to add some nutty sweetness. In less than 15 minutes you'll have the most delicious pasta meal.  Definitely a keeper, especially the pesto in the fridge. I made enough pasta for 2 days and had leftovers the next day. Good and healthy enough for any lunch box. Bon appetit!
250g/8oz wholewheat spaghetti
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
3 tablespoons pine nuts
Arugula Pesto
1 1/2 cups arugula  leaves (tough stems removed), packed
1 cup walnuts or pine nuts
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Pesto serves 6. Pasta serves 2-3.
Arugula Pesto
Combine arugula leaves, nuts, garlic, lemon juice and Parmesan cheese (if using) and blend in a food processor until it becomes a smooth paste. Slowly blend in the olive oil (only taking small amounts at a time) until fully incorporated. Season with salt and pepper. If you don't use the pesto immediately, keep the pesto in an airtight container, covering it with a layer of olive oil to prevent it from going off. Keep in the fridge.
Cook spaghetti according to instructions. 
Pour boiling water over the sun-dried tomatoes and let stand for 5-10 minutes until they become plump and soft. Drain and chop. Set aside.
In a dry pan over medium heat, toast the pine nuts for 5-7 minutes. Set aside.
When the pasta is al dente, drain and immediately mix in the pesto until pasta is well coated. Stir in chopped tomatoes and toasted pine nuts. Transfer to serving plates.
Continue Reading>>

09 December, 2010

Chocolate Crinkles

My current marathon training allows me to chomp down cookies like there is no tomorrow. Carbs is what my body needs, right? Well, not only, of course. In fact, I went to a seminar about nutrition and pacing for runners the other day. They quoted a few successful long-distance runners and triathletes saying, that a diet (too) low in fats and proteins has a negative impact on their performance. So bring on the butter and eggs too :-)
Because I can/have to eat a lot more with this training,  I am very conscious about what I put into my body. As a result, I only eat homemade foods. The good thing is, I never get tired of baking cookies. I love doing that first thing in the morning, or last thing at night. These chocolate crinkles have been on my list for a very long time. I love their rustic look. They look a bit like German breads, perhaps that's why I feel so attracted by them. The ingredients list is simple and straightforward: chocolate, butter, eggs and flour with a hint of cinnamon guarantee a simple and delicious cookie.
Tomorrow morning I run my first Half Marathon of the season. The finishing time will be a good barometer of how well I did with the training for the full marathon. I am feeling good and confident. For the first time ever, I have a pacing strategy, that the running coach on that seminar suggested: Get the average pace of your goal time. Run the first third a little slower. Run the second third at average pace. Run the last third as fast as you can/want. He promised PBs with this tactic. We'll see. Wish me luck!!

4oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
2 tablespoons butter, unsalted

1/4 cup palm sugar
1 egg

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Yields ca. 20
Melt the chocolate and butter together in a double boiler. Remove from heat once melted.
Beat sugar and egg until fluffy.  Stir in the chocolate mixture. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt, cinnamon and baking powder. Add the flour mix to the chocolate mix. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, so that the batter is firm enough to shape into balls. 
Preheat oven to 165C/325F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Fill a shallow bowl with powdered sugar. Form balls size of a walnut. Then roll the dough balls in the powdered sugar until they are completely coated.
Place the balls on the baking sheet about 1 and 1/2 inches apart. Bake for about 10 minutes, or  until the edges are firm but the centers are still soft. Cool on wire rack.
Continue Reading>>

06 December, 2010

Rosemary Mixed Nuts

I often get annoyed when the regular available portion sizes are much too big of what one can use up or eat. For example, ice cream. My kids are still small. They would be happy with an apricot-sized scoop. Instead the smallest scoop size available is apple size. They never finish it, soon it starts dripping all over them and me. The big mess ends with us throwing at least half of it away.
The other day, my husband came home from shopping with a prepacked bunch of fresh rosemary that looked like half a kilo. What on earth can you cook with that amount of rosemary before it dries up?  I put it into almost everything: savory breads, onto grilled fish and chicken, potatoes. Everyday we had rosemary with something. But the bunch didn't seem to get any smaller. I went to search for more recipes that included rosemary, and found this little jewel: Rosemary Mixed Nuts. I am crazy about homemade spiced nuts. Never thought of putting in rosemary as the usual recipes just call for spices, not for herbs. The flavor combination is heavenly: savory from the salt, a little sweetness from the the nuts and the sugar, spiciness from the cayenne and earthiness from the rosemary. These are addictive.The perfect thing to impress with as an appetizer or party snack.
I only made one batch of these nuts which didn't last long. However, the rosemary dried in the meantime and I had to throw it out. Shame, I hate doing that. But whenever I will have rosemary int he house again, a couple of tablespoons will be saved for these nuts.

1 cup whole almonds
1 cup whole blanched almonds
1 cup whole cashews

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons dark brown sugar or palm sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon butter, melted
Preheat oven to 180C/350F.
Spread the nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet. Toast for 8 minutes, until they become fragrant.
Meanwhile, mix the rosemary with pepper, sugar, salt, and melted butter. Transfer the mix into a bowl that is big enough to hold the nuts.
When the nuts are done, transfer them into the prepared bowl immediately and toss with the rosemary mixture while they are still hot. Let cool. Keep in airtight container.

Continue Reading>>

02 December, 2010

Banana Hazelnut Upside Down Cake

Recently, I've been finding myself fancying bigger cakes. I feel like I've done all possible loaf cakes and got a bit tired of them. Don't get me wrong, I love them still and they are good for breakfast or a picnic in the park. But sometimes you want something fancy looking. Something to impress people with.
Now here is the story of my Banana Hazelnut Upside Down Cake: My kids seem to be a bit off bananas these days. Many very ripe ones end up in the freezer for future banana cakes. For this cake I used the basics of my Banana Date Loaf. Instead of putting the nuts into the cake, I put them on top and used some more bananas for extra sweetness.
The result: an utterly delicious and beautiful cake, naturally sweetened with dried dates and bananas, and just a little palm sugar for the hazelnut topping. It doesn't taste like a guilt-free cake, but it is (if you don't have a problem with the amount of butter being used, that is :-)

1 cup pitted dates, finely chopped
1 cup milk
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup butter

1 egg

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Hazelnut Topping
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted
1/4 cup palm sugar
1/3 cup butter

2 bananas, sliced

Yields one 9 inch cake
Preheat oven to 180C/375F. Grease 9 inch cake tin with closed bottom (don't use one with removable bottom or a spring form). 

Cake Base:
In a small pot, place finely chopped dates with milk. Cut in the butter and slowly bring to a boil. Stir occasionally. When all the butter has melted, take off the heat and let cool a little. Once it has cooled, stir in mashed bananas and the egg. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour with baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Set aside.

Hazelnut Topping: 
Melt the butter. Stir in the palm sugar. Chop the toasted hazelnuts and stir into butter sugar mixture.

Assembling and Baking the Cake: 
Spread hazelnut topping at the bottom of the greased cake tin. Cover with slices of banana. Pour the cake base batter on top of the sliced bananas. Bake for about 40 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.  Let cool for 10 minutes before inverting.
Continue Reading>>

30 November, 2010

Chicken Soup with Custard Royale

Winter time is cold season, even here in Dubai where winter temperatures do not go below 20C/70F during the day. Husband has been sniffing and coughing for more than a week. My son has had days with fever or without voice and horrible coughing attacks for about a week. And since this morning I can feel it coming too. I don't know yet where it's gonna go, but it feels chesty rather than nosy so far. Last man standing is my 2-year old daughter. I hope she's not gonna get sick. Sick 2-year-olds are hard work......

I think I am very lucky since I am hardly ever ill. My annual consumption of headache tablets probably doesn't exceed 5 tablets. But when I get a cold or just have the slightest fever, I feel like I am almost dying. In other words: I am suffering terribly and I am feeling awfully sorry for myself right now, although the cold is not even fully there yet.

So what is there to do to prevent the full blast or to make me feel at least a little better? CHICKEN SOUP!! It's the one and only thing. It goes down even when you don't feel like eating. It feels like it gives you back some strength. And even when you are not sick, I simply love this soup in winter: hearty, warming, lots of ingredients in just one bowl.

This  is and old traditional recipe from the region in Germany where I come from. It's actually called wedding soup, as the chicken broth with just some veggies and the custard royale was served as a starter at wedding parties. The actual chicken meat would be used for chicken fricassee as the main course. There is variations of this soup from family to family in the region. Now here is our version (as cooked by my parents who learned it from their parents):


1 whole small chicken (about 800g)
1 carrot, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 small leek, halved lengthwise and sliced
1/2 cup celeriac, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 handful of parsley, chopped
3 litres water
salt to taste

1 cup asparagus (white or green), cut into 1 inch pieces, cooked

Meatballs (optional)
300g (10oz) pork or beef mince
1 egg
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
salt and pepper to taste

Custard Royale
2 eggs
4 tablespoons milk
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

Serves 4
In a large pot, place chicken, carrot, leek, celeriac and parsley and pour over 3 litres of water. Season well with salt. Bring to boil, then simmer for about 1 hour. Take out the chicken, and let cool until it can be handled. 

In the meantime, combine all ingredients for the meatballs. Form balls of the size of a cherry or walnut. Put meatballs into the chicken broth and cook until done, about 10-15 minutes.

For the custard royale, whisk eggs and milk together until well combined. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Place mixture into a small lightly, greased bowl. Cover the bowl and place it into a pot of slightly simmering water. Cook for about 30 minutes or until egg mixture has set.
Take the sold egg mixture out of the bowl, cut into cubes. Set aside.

Pull the meat off the chicken and into small pieces. Put it back into the soup. Add the asparagus. Heat the soup and add the eggs cubes at the end, heat for another 2 minutes. Transfer to serving bowl and garnish with chopped parsley.
Continue Reading>>

27 November, 2010

Cinnamon Almond Butter Truffles

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen, I have an announcement to make: I finally registered for the Dubai marathon!! I mentioned in many recent posts that I was training for it, but never told you that I wasn't actually registered. The simple reason for that was that I wasn't sure if I could get myself to run it.
Two days ago I did a 29k/18miles run in which I had to run progressively faster towards the end, for about the last 40 minutes. I was on the road for three hours. After that run I decided that I can do a marathon, with just a little more training.
My thighs are still a little tight and sore, but hey, 29k/18 miles are not exactly a walk in the park, right? So now I am registered, and I am very much looking forward to it. All doubts are swept away and I will run this marathon.
Tonight I am gonna meet my running group. Runners can do either 2 or 4 miles. The run has race character, although it's a fun thing. I am gonna do my 4 miles and see if I can improve my time from last week, although I can still feel the 3-hour run in my legs.
I must say I have been watching my nutrition very carefully since I started the marathon training. I like to believe that it contributed positively to my performance, will power, and recovery after the runs.
No refined sugars or flours or processed foods. Lots of raw foods and fresh ingredients.
Now here is my latest creation: after making my almond butter granola bars I was intrigued to make almond butter myself. I found out, nothing is easier than that. Perhaps the rest of the world knows that. It never occurred to me that this was something you make yourself at home: Put the raw almonds in the food processor and process for some 25 minutes, and there you go. I was watching my food processor doing my almond butter like kids would watch elephants in the zoo: with absolute amazement and joy.
Once the butter has the desired creamy consistency, just throw in some sweetener, spices or flavors. I went for cinnamon, figs, coconut and honey. Ready is your raw and guilt-free dessert.

1 cup whole raw almonds (or 1/2 cup almond butter)
1/4 cup dried figs, chopped
1/4 cup dried coconut flakes + more for coating
4 tablespoons honey or agave syrup
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon water (optional)

Yields 15-20
In a food processor, combine almond butter*, figs, 1/4 cup dried coconut flakes, cinnamon and agave/honey. Blend until well combined. If the batter seems to dry to form balls, add a teaspoon of water and blend again in the food processor.
Form balls of the size of a cherry, then roll in dried coconut flakes to coat. Place in mini muffin liners. Keep in airtight container at room temperature or in the fridge.

* How to make almond butter:
Place 1 cup of almonds into the food processor. Blend for about 25 minutes (yes, 25!!!), until texture becomes creamy. It is important to regularly wipe the sides of the food processor. Process, wipe sides, process, wipe sides. You'll get about 1/2 cup of almond butter out of a cup of whole almonds.
Continue Reading>>

24 November, 2010

Grilled Lentil Walnut Burgers

Confessions of a healthy food fanatic: I used to like burgers. The ones from well-known fast food chains. I used to crave them regularly, e.g once per month. Luckily, we moved to a spot that is far away from any take-away or home-delivery food place. So food would arrive only lukewarm or cold. That's fine with Indian food as you can heat it up again. Not so cool with burgers or pizza.
Perhaps it's just yet another detail that led me to eating healthier and preferring home-cooked dishes. Although I still like the burger idea in general.
I found this Lentil Walnut Burger recipe in my box of to-cook-dishes. It took some time to find out where I got it from: Martha Stewart. I actually only know her name. I sort of know that she is a big star in America and seems to be a next-door-neighbor kind of TV cook. I have never seen her on TV. When I grazed through the cookbook and lifestyle section in a big bookshop here in Dubai the other day, I found out that she also does books about housekeeping. I didn't page through them, not my kind of literature.....
However, this burger recipe is amazing. The combination of nuts and lentils as main ingredients make it a health bomb. I made a few minor changes to the ingredient list and grilled the burgers instead of frying them as my family is not used to fried foods and generally reacts with sore tummies.
It turned out really well. The burgers were just right with all these spices. I will definitely make these again, as they are being put together very quickly (as long as you have the lentils ready). Just one tip: eat them as soon as you make them. Leftovers tend to get a little on the dry side.

3/4 cup toasted walnuts
2 tablespoons dried whole wheat breadcrumbs OR whole wheat couscous
2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup cooked brown lentils (1/3 cup uncooked lentils)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 large egg

Tahini Sauce
2 tablespoons Tahini (sesame paste)
2 tablespoons yogurt
salt to taste

Serves 4
In the bowl of a food processor, combine walnuts, breadcrumbs, garlic, chili flakes, cumin, coriander, 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; process until finely ground. Add cooked lentils, onion, and olive oil; pulse until coarsely chopped.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg. Add lentil mixture; mix until well combined. Divide into quarters; roll into balls, and flatten with the palm of your hands into 3/4-inch-thick patties.

Place patties on a slightly greased baking sheet and grill for 8 minutes. Turn over and grill for another 6-8 minutes. Serve immediately with Tahini sauce on burger buns or pita bread with a mixed salad.

Tahini Sauce
Mix the Tahini and the yogurt. Add water little by little until you get the right consistency, not too thick and not too runny. Add salt for seasoning.
Continue Reading>>

20 November, 2010

German Cheesecake

I have been living out of Germany for more than 7 years now. The longer I am away, the more often I crave typically German foods. There are German restaurants here in Dubai. A few weeks after we arrived, I stood in front of one and read their menu. Back then I decided I will never go to a Dubai restaurant to eat German food. I might do them wrong, but until today I have kept my word.
So home-cooking is the way out of the dilemma and the way into another dilemma: ingredients, or the lack of. For instance, certain meats prepared and cured in certain ways are simply not available. And there is not substitute for it. I got used to it.
However, other ingredients can be substituted. Like Quark cheese. It is a sort of fresh cheese, that is similar to yogurt or cottage or ricotta cheese in its taste and texture. It has got a low fat content, similar to yogurt. In Germany it is used a lot in baking. In fact, I have never eaten a cheesecake in Germany that was not made with Quark cheese. I love its lighter, fluffier texture, with just a little zing that comes from added lemon juice.
Now, one of my most frequent food craving is German cheesecake. Quark cheese is still not available in Dubai. But for a couple of  years, fromage blanc has been on the shelves which is a very good substitute. Please see my notes below how to substitute the Quark cheese or how to make it yourself.

PS: Don't be deceived by the rather healthy Quark cheese in this cake. The other ingredients make it a truly guilty dessert!

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup palm sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup butter (100g), at room temperature

1/2 cup butter (100g), at room temperature
1/2 cup palm sugar
4 eggs
750g/26oz Quark fresh cheese*
1/2 lemon, juice of

* Alternatives to Quark fresh cheese:
- fromage blanc
- three parts ricotta cheese and one part sour cream
- equal parts of cottage cheese and yogurt 

*How to make Quark fresh cheese at home:
Combine one quart whole milk with 1/2 cup buttermilk in a clean container, cover, and let the mixture stand at room temperature for two days. Gently cook the mixture for about 30 minutes. It's done when the curd has thickened slightly and begun to separate from the whey. Let it cool and pour it into a colander lined with several folds of cheesecloth. Put the colander into a larger container, wrap with plastic, and let it drain overnight in the refrigerator until the quark is reduced to the consistency of yogurt. Makes about 1 cup.
Yields one 9 inch cake
Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Line bottom of 9 inch spring form with parchment paper and grease the sides.

Combine flour, salt and baking powder. In another big bowl, beat together sugar and butter until creamy. Whisk in the egg yolk. Slowly add the flour mixture and beat until well incorporated. Roll out the dough. Make sure it is slightly bigger than the spring form. Press the dough into the bottom and sides of the spring form. The dough should be 3cm/2 inches up at the sides. Prick the dough with fork a few times. Bake for 10 minutes. Take out of the oven.

For the filling, whisk egg, sugar until creamy. Beat in the  butter until creamy.  Stir lemon juice into the Quark fresh cheese. Then add to the egg mixture. Blend until well combined. Pour the fresh cheese filling into the prebaked dough in the spring form. Bake at 180C/350F for 60 minutes.
If the top of the cake gets too dark cover with aluminum foil. Let cool in the form for 10-15 minutes before taking out.
Continue Reading>>

17 November, 2010

Roasted Butternut Squash with Goat Cheese

Do you have a favorite kitchen tool? A pot or pan, a certain wooden spoon that you ALWAYS use? Well, in the picture above you see my favorite baking tray. I bake, roast and toast everything on it. Non-removable marks of extensive usage are obvious to see. I have several other trays that look much better with less stains, but I prefer to use this one.

Anyway, this is a food blog. So let's talk about what's been cooking on my favorite baking tray: butternut squash. I cooked this roasted butternut squash about a year ago for the first time. Back then,  I couldn't get the pictures right. So I never got to post it. But it has always been on my mind. The butternut squash is brushed with garlic, chili flakes, thyme and olive oil and then roasted. To be honest, that alone would have got me to post the recipe as it is simply divine. Anything else is a bonus. And in fact, it does get even better. Roasted veggies, pine nuts and a mix of breadcrumbs, Parmesan and goat cheese make this a side dish that looks and tastes absolutely delicious.

I can imagine this as a perfect dish to cook when you entertain a crowd. I admit it's a little time-consuming to cook this, but as it will be the same time for two or ten squash halves, it will be worth even more when you have guests to feed. Pulling out a big baking tray with these flavorful vegetables will impress anyone, that's for sure.

adapted from BBC Good Food

2 small butternut squash
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
a pinch dried chili flakes
1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 cup zucchini or courgette, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 red pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 small red onions, cut into thin wedges

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1/4 cup  crumbly goat cheese
1 tablespoon breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese

Serves 4
Preheat oven to 200C/400F.

Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds.  Then cut criss-cross patterns over the cut-side of each one. Mix together the garlic, 2 tablespoons olive oil, chili and thyme and brush this mixture over the flesh. Place on a baking tin and bake for about 30-40 minutes until the flesh is tender.

To make the filling, put the courgette, pepper and onion in a roasting tin and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season and roast for about 20-25 minutes until tender and starting to brown at the edges. Add the cherry tomatoes and pine nuts and cook for another 10 minutes.

Mix the breadcrumbs, parsley and Parmesan.
Spoon the roasted vegetables and goat cheese in the squash halves, scatter with the breadcrumb mix and bake for a further 10 minutes or until golden and bubbling. Take out of the oven and serve immediately.
Continue Reading>>

13 November, 2010

Almond Butter Granola Bars

If you are not in the mood of hear me bleating about my marathon training, please skip to the next paragraph. It's fine, really!!! You are not missing much. I ran 24 km yesterday, or 15 miles. I was on the road for 2 1/2 hours. I just completed week 3 in my 12-week marathon training, and this was my weekly "long and slow run". This whole marathon training is taking its toll: it is very time-consuming as I run 5 times a week. Those runs which take up between 1 to 3 hours per training day, have to be chopped off somewhere else. I manage, but I can feel that a few hours in the day are missing. I get the obligatory things done, but forget about watching TV at night, emailing or phoning friends and family, surfing the Net as comprehensive as I used to. Thank God, I never really got into Facebook and Twitter, although I have accounts for both, it would have been my virtual death. I definitely need more sleep since I started training, up to 1 hour more per night. Reading a few pages in my book before switching off the light at night, has become a struggle. By the time I get ready for bed, I am already sleepwalking. With regards to the runs, the long runs are the toughest: both mentally and physically. I don't like to listen to music while running. Therefore, to keep me busy I constantly negotiate with myself whether to make this long run a shorter one, and do the long run on another day. I constantly calculate my speed and distance, as I only run with a regular stopwatch. Now the worst: one hour after the long run, I can't walk anymore. Last week, I couldn't get into my pajamas at night as I wasn't able to stand on one leg. This week it wasn't as bad, but I can still feel yesterday's long run in my legs, as it definitely affected my patience with the kids. Those poor little kids had to deal with quite a moody mama today. And that was only 24k/15miles, far away from the 42k/26miles that I want to run in January. Alright, enough moaning. Now a few good things.
At least, my marathon nutrition seems to be working well. I don't have any problems with what I eat before, during and after my runs: I eat 2 hours before a run. During the run I normally eat nothing. For the long runs I have raisins or dried dates in my pocket. They provide quick carbs and take any funny tastes out of your mouth. Straight after a long run (anything longer than 1 hour), I try and have small bowl of cornflakes and milk as soon as possible, to support a quick recovery of the muscles, followed by complex carbs/whole grains and veggies/fruit a little later. That's all there is to it.

Because my energy consumption has increased since the start of my marathon training, I have been eyeing granola bar recipes as my hunger for snacks increased accordingly. I never used any nut butters in my granola bars before, but was up to trying this now.
Many of the nut butter granola bar recipes asked for lots of honey, syrup or other kind of concentrated sweeteners. I wanted to keep it as natural as possible and used mashed bananas instead. The dried fruits would hopefully provide enough sweetness, I thought to myself. Out I took the almond butter that had been sitting in my pantry for several months. It worked out beautifully. These bars are packed with goodness: almond butter, bananas, almonds, seeds, rolled oats and dried fruit. Tasty and filling. The perfect snack between meals to keep hunger at bay. Definitely a keeper. Next thing will be to make my own almond butter.

1/2 cup almond butter
2 bananas, mashed

1/2 cup whole almonds
1/4 cup dried apricots
1/4 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup mixed seeds (eg. pumpkin, sunflower... whatever you have at hand)
1 cup rolled oats

Yields 12 bars
Preheat oven to 160C/350F. Line wide loaf tin with parchment paper.

In a small pot heat almond butter and mashed bananas. Stir gently until well combined. Set aside.

In a food processor, coarse chop the almonds, apricots, raisins and cherries. Transfer to a bowl. Mix in seeds and oats. Fold in the almond butter mixture. Press the batter into prepared loaf tin. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Let cool before cutting into bars/squares.
Continue Reading>>

10 November, 2010

Dukkah Spiced Pumpkin Salad

Miracles happen, otherwise I have no explanation for this: How can it be that I only heard of Dukkah (an Egyptian spice mix) a few days back, when I have been living in the Middle East for more than 6 years?

Dukkah is a combination of spices and finely chopped nuts. Traditionally it is served as a dip for bread or vegetables with a little oil. There are many recipes of dukkah out there, including a wide variety of spices and nuts.

As days become cooler, I went for a hot spicy version, and used it to spice up a pumpkin salad. The combination is heavenly: sweet oven-roasted pumpkin and crunchy green beans tossed in a chili-hot dukkah spice mix and rounded up with some crumbly goat cheese. I am buying pumpkins and green beans by the kilo these days, as I can't get enough of this salad. Serve over some brown rice, couscous, or bulgur and you'll have a full meal.

2 cups cubed pumpkin or butternut squash
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups green beans, trimmed and cut in halves
3 spring onions, chopped
1/4 cup crumbly goat cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground chili powder
3 tablespoons chopped almonds
3 tablespoons chopped walnuts
3 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts

Serves 2 to 4
Preheat oven to 200C(375F).
Place cubed pumpkin on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt. Toss the pumpkin so it is evenly coated and lay it out in one layer. Bake for 20 minutes or until cooked. Turn over half way through.

Meanwhile, prepare the Dukkah. Toast the chopped nuts in a dry pan over medium heat for about 3-5 minutes or until fragrant. Set aside. Now toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a dry pan for 3-5 minutes, or until brown and fragrant.
Blend the toasted seeds, cinnamon, chili, salt and pepper in a blender. In a small bowl, mix the ground ingredients with the toasted chopped nuts.

Steam or boil the beans for about 3-5 minutes, until cooked.  Put into ice water straight afterward to retain the green color and stop the cooking process. Drain.

In a large bowl, combine the oven roasted pumpkin with the green beans. Toss with 1-2 tablespoons of dukkah. Sprinkle with chopped spring onions and goat cheese. Season to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Continue Reading>>

07 November, 2010

Olive Cheese Bread

While it gets cold in the rest of the world, BBQ season starts in Dubai. While most people living in the northern hemisphere are cuddling up at home with a warming cup of tea, we are seeding herbs and veggies in our garden. The summer in Dubai is long and hot, but so are the winters in Northern parts of Europe and America.
We were invited to a BBQ recently, and a cheese quick bread was on the table as  an appetizer while the main course was grilling on the BBQ. I never had anything like that before, especially not in the form of quick bread. As I like to cook and bake with whole wheat flour (which is an arch enemy of yeast), I was intrigued. Just a few days later I made this olive cheese bread with homegrown chives. A perfect appetizer bread, good enough to have with just a little butter or some dip. I can also highly recommend this bread as a supplement for mild creamy soups. We had it with some creamy leek soup the other night. The cheesy bread worked really well with the mild taste of the leek. This bread will also be a good thing to bring for potluck, picnics, or any sort of no-fuss gatherings.
And even if there is no crowd to entertain, it serves perfectly as a snack in between meals. Keep it tightly wrapped in the fridge and it will keep fresh for 2-3 days. I'll make this bread again and again again.

(Print Recipe)

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder OR crushed mustard seeds
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated Gouda cheese
3 tablespoons sliced black olives
1/4 cup snipped chives

2 eggs
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon rock salt to garnish

Yields 1 loaf
Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Line loaf tin with parchment paper.
In a large bowl sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, pepper, and mustard powder. Stir in Parmesan and Gouda cheese, the olives and the chives.

In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Whisk in olive oil and buttermilk. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Pour the batter in the prepared loaf tin. Sprinkle with rock salt. Bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Continue Reading>>

04 November, 2010

Spinach Banana Muffins

I guess we all had one or the other veggie in a sweet dessert. No big deal anymore. But we (or perhaps just I) thought we came to the end of the line: carrots, pumpkins, zucchini, etc. What else is there to put into a cake?
SPINACH. Isn't that the craziest idea? It's not mine though, I saw it on another food blog The Chic Life. I was intrigued immediately. I made a few changes: I used mashed banana instead of applesauce, palm sugar instead of refined sugar, olive oil instead of canola and added some yogurt for moistness.
The result: a perfect muffin. I PROMISE, you will not taste the spinach, it is really "just" a green banana muffin. I shared them with a friend who happened to drop by with her young kids, when I pulled the muffins fresh out of the oven. And if you want to get your kids to eat those, sell them to them as "Ben 10 muffins". That was the first association of my friend's kids when they saw them. 

Inspired by a recipe from The Chic Life

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg
1/3 cup palm sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup yogurt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 cup mashed banana (1 medium banana)

1 cup packed baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Yields 6
Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Grease or line muffin tin.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In another bowl, whisk together, sugar and egg until creamy. Stir in oil, yogurt, lemon zest and banana.
In a food processor, blend the spinach leaves until finely chopped.
Fold chopped spinach and walnuts into the batter, leaving some of the walnut aside. Fill batter into prepared muffin tin. Garnish each muffin with the remaining walnuts. Bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
Continue Reading>>

01 November, 2010

Spaghetti in White Clam Sauce

We love seafood in our family. Just recently we threw our BBQ on for a midweek grilled king prawn feast. OK, we had visitors to impress, but I'd do a lot of things for grilled prawns.
One of our more lazy weekday seafood dinners has been pasta and tomato clam sauce. I must say I got a bit tired of that and were looking to use some White Clam Sauce. Getting hold of fresh clam meat helped a lot, as I bought about 2 pounds that need to be used up within a few days.
This sauce satisfied my all my expectations: the taste of the clams were supposed to main act, with a little help of salty anchovies, some crunchy celery and a little creamy cream to coat the pasta. I made a huge pot of that sauce and kept the leftovers in the fridge. The sauce got better by the day, as the clam flavor got stronger and stronger. The true taste of the sea that doesn't need much extras. Bon appetit!


(Print Recipe)

400g (14oz) whole wheat spaghetti 

2 tablespoons butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced anchovies
1 cup celery stalks, chopped
8 oz/200g fresh clam meat
1/3 cup fish stock OR clam juice
2 tablespoons Creme Fraiche or cream
salt and pepper to taste
grated Parmesan to garnish

Serves 2-3
Cook spaghetti according to instructions.

Meanwhile, heat butter over medium heat in a pan. Fry minced garlic and anchovies for 2-3 minutes, then add celery stalks. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add fish stock/clam juice and clam meat. Bring to a boil, then simmer for another few minutes. Take off the heat. Stir in Creme Fraiche/cream and season with salt and pepper.

Drain cooked spaghetti. Transfer back to the pot and stir in the the clam sauce. Transfer to plates and garnish with grated Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.
Continue Reading>>

29 October, 2010

Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal Cake

I can't deny that I see the end of the year coming, Halloween is only a couple of days away. Soon will be Christmas. Soon after that the year 2010 is a thing of the past. It might be a little early to say, but this year hasn't been one of my best. Lots of sad, annoying, or troublesome things happened. Not all at once, but nicely spread over the whole year. That's life I guess.
Anyway, the end of the year also finds me more and more in the spice section of the supermarket. Cinnamon, cardamom, or ginger are ready to be used in some cookies or cakes. Other herbs and spices will spice up hearty soups and stews (hopefully).
Here is the recipe of my Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal Cake. I have baked it a with a few changes a couple of times until I was 100% happy with the taste and the texture of it. It is a perfect fall/winter bread.
I am baking cake loaves almost every other day these days. Why? My children finally got to like my healthified versions, and I find myself chomping these down with a glass of milk straight after my marathon training runs. It delivers carbs quickly, but not of the worst kind. And it's delicious carbs too!

1/2 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup warm milk
1/2 cup raisins

1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup palm sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1/4 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon palm sugar
1 tablespoon butter

Yields 1 loaf
Combine oats, milk and raisins in bowl, cover, let stand for 20-30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Line loaf tin with parchment paper.

Beat olive oil and sugar in small bowl until smooth.  Add eggs,  one at a time. Whisk until well incorporated, before adding the next one. Stir in yogurt and vanilla. Stir in oat mixture.
In another bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and cinnamon. Combine wet and dry ingredients.

For the topping, combine oats, cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl. Rub in butter with your finger tips until mixture becomes crumbly. 
Pour cake batter into prepared loaf tin. Sprinkle with topping . Bake for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick come out clean. Let cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
Continue Reading>>

27 October, 2010

Cauliflower with Mustard Seeds

I had Indian food a few times last week as we had visitors from Europe who don't eat Indian food very often. Half (if not more) of Dubai's population is Indian, so you get delicious and authentic Indian food at almost every corner. I love it for its spices, that doesn't just make a dish spicy hot, but first and foremost flavorful.

I have had mustard seeds in my pantry for quite some time, but didn't really know what to do with them. Mr. Google helped out, and here is the result: Cauliflower with mustard seeds. Simple as that. I cooked this dish twice today. The first batch was eaten straight out of the pan and didn't have a chance to get photographed.

This is a dish that even cauliflower haters will eat. The light taste of the cauliflower is combined with the most amazing spice mix, combining cumin, turmeric, chili and mustard seeds. It's not overly spicy hot, but definitely has the zing that you would expect from an Indian dish. It's exactly this full round flavor that I so like about Indian dishes.

Serve this cauliflower dish on top of brown rice, and you'll have a perfectly healthy and vegan dish that's light and hearty at the same time. I guess this dish can even be done with other vegetables too: I can imagine green beans or Brussels sprouts in here. Bon appetit!


3 cups cauliflower florets (1 medium cauliflower)

2 tablespoons coconut oil 

2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seed

1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground chili
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tomato, chopped

1/4 cup water (or more if needed)
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves (divided), or parsley

1 tablespoon lemon juice, or to taste 

Serves 2-4
Combine mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds in a small bowl. Set aside.
In another small bowl combine cumin, turmeric, chili and salt. Keep all spices near the stove.

Heat oil in a deep pan until very hot. Add all seeds. When mustard seeds turn grey, reduce heat to medium and stir in ground spices. Cook for a few seconds, then stir in minced garlic and chopped tomatoes. Cook for about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Add cauliflower florets and stir so it becomes coated with the spice mix. Stir fry for a few minutes. Add 1/4 cup of water and 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro/parsley leaves. Turn heat on high, cover pan with a lid and cook until cauliflower is tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add more water, if needed.

Add lemon juice and season with salt to taste. Garnish with remaining cilantro/parsley. Serve immediately.
Continue Reading>>

23 October, 2010

Quinoa Coconut Porridge

I ran my first 10k race of the season yesterday. The season in Dubai is in winter, as the summer months are far too hot for these kind of outdoor activities. I am not an early morning runner, when I run on my own. I prefer to do my training in the afternoon or early evenings. In too early mornings I am hardly able to put one foot in front of the other.
For races, however, I can get myself to get up at 6am. I love the drive on empty roads and the closer I get to the race location, the more I see other racers in their cars on their way. That alone increases my adrenaline and makes me forget the few hours (and by far not enough) sleep that I had the night before.

I always have a goal time that I like to achieve. This time, I set myself to finish under 49 minutes, perhaps even close to 48:30. As it was the first race since April this year, I wasn't quite sure were I was standing. High temperatures and humidity that we still have here in Dubai in October (even or especially at 7am) are additional and very unpredictable factors to take into account.
I had a really cool bib number: 111. I got lots of nice comments for that along the way. In the end it all ended well. I was right in my goal finishing time.

After every race, no matter if the times were good or bad, I realize one thing: I like early morning running races, BECAUSE they are so early in the morning. Before you know it's over. I was back home by 8.30am. I already had achieved something that I was proud of and still had the whole day in front of me. To me, that's the coolest thing.

After a shower and replenishing lost liquids, it was time for a nice hearty breakfast. Same thing with the cooking as with the running: on a regular day I usually don't like to cook that early in the morning. That's why this quinoa porridge is my "special occasion" breakfast. Nonetheless delicious. And, needless to say, nutritious. It has a combination of flavors that is simply beautiful: coconut, bananas and pistachios, rounded up with some vanilla and cinnamon if you like. I'd have it everyday if I wasn't so lazy in the mornings....

1/4 cup uncooked quinoa
1/2 cup coconut milk  + more for drizzling
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon OR 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
1 ripe banana, divided

2 tablespoons pistachios, chopped and toasted
2 tablespoons coconut flakes

Yields 1 portion
In a small pot, bring quinoa, cinnamon/vanilla (if using) and coconut milk to a boil, then simmer on low heat until all liquid has been absorbed and quinoa is tender (about 10-15 minutes). Add a little more coconut milk or water if the liquid is absorbed to quickly and the quinoa note done yet. Cut the banana in half, mash one half and stir into the cooked quinoa. Transfer quinoa banana mixture to a breakfast bowl or plate. Drizzle some more coconut milk over the quinoa. Chop the other half banana. Sprinkle over the quinoa along with the chopped pistachios and coconut flakes. Serve immediately.

The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs
Continue Reading>>