29 January, 2010

Fruit And Nut Loaf

I have posted another recipe of fruit bread before. But I need to share this one with you today. Maybe because I haven't baked any fruit n' nut breads for so long, and because I am so glad that I did this one because it is so good.  I love these kind of breads, their richness, their sweetness, their crunchiness.
I especially like this bread because it contains just enough flour to keep the dried fruits and nuts together. Other than my previous fruit bread recipe, this one is made with eggs instead of milk. Because it hardly more than dried fruit and nuts, it keeps forever (not that it ever has to in this house...) if you wrap it tightly in silver foil and keep it in the fridge. It might even get better if you keep it wrapped and untouched for a few days so the flavors of the dried fruit can spread their aroma to the whole bread.

(Print Recipe)

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup agave syrup

2 cups chopped nuts (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts)
1 cup of chopped dried fruit (dates and/or figs)
1 cup of chopped dried fruit (cherries, cranberries, apricots)

Yields 1 loaf
Preheat oven to 150C. Grease a 9x5 inch loaf tin and spread parchment paper at the bottom.

In a bowl, combine all dry ingredients and mix well. Set aside.
In another bowl, beat the eggs and stir in vanilla and agave syrup.

Add the chopped dried fruit and nuts into the flour mixture. Stir until nuts and fruit are well coated with flour. Stir in the egg mixture to the flour nut mixture until well combined. Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin, pressing the batter down with the back of a spoon. Bake in the preheated oven for about 60 minutes.
Take out the oven and let cool completely. Keep wrapped in silver foil to keep it fresh. It lasts even longer when kept in the fridge.
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28 January, 2010

Apple Carrot Muffins with Cinnamon Oat Topping

Many muffins recipes cater for 10 to 12, if not more, muffins. Who eats these muffins? I mean, even a family of four would have at least two to three muffins per person. Are there people out there who have three muffins per day? I find that unlikely somehow. If not, who wants to eat muffins that are three days old? Not that many, I'd guess. Am I totally oblivious to a mysterious muffin culture out there?

I started dividing each muffin recipe by two long time ago since  have no idea what to do with 12 or more muffins. Since they are thrown together so quickly I don't mind baking fresh ones every other day if necessary.

Although these days, I must admit, I often eat 2-3 muffins. As I am training to run a full marathon in 10 weeks, I crave these muffins after my training runs. To be honest, after all this exercise I chomp them down like little pralines (which they are not). But they are good and just what my body needs: carbs, carbs and carbs to help my muscles recover and get me ready for the next run. Well, this is what I tell myself as I do feel a little guilty after having three muffins in one go.

The apple carrot muffins were gone in one day. They turned out to be very moist and juicy. The  soft inside with flavors of apple, carrot and raisins were deliciously complemented by the crunchy cinnamon topping.

(Print Recipe)

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt

1/4 cup agave syrup
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 tablespoons canola oil

1/2 cup grated carrots (one medium carrot)
1/2 cup grated apples with skins (one medium apple)
3 tablespoons golden raisins

2 tablespoons butter (room temperature)
3 tablespoons rolled oats (quick cooking or regular)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Yields 6 
Preheat oven to 180C. Grease muffin tin or line with muffin papers.

Combine all dry ingredients and mix well. Set aside. In a separate bowl, combine all wet ingredients. Add dry ingredients to wet mixture and stir until just combined. Gently fold in the grated carrots, apples and raisins.
For the topping, combine all ingredients in a bowl. Using your fingers, rub the butter and the other ingredients together until you get a crumbly mixture.
Fill the muffin batter into the muffin tin. Top each one with a tablespoon of the topping mixture. Bake for about 20-25 minutes.
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26 January, 2010

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Pine Nuts (on Sage Butter Gnocchis)

I think almost every food blog has had their Brussels sprout recipe for this winter. Most probably, everyone is already totally overdosed on them. Never mind, here comes my Brussels sprouts recipe. It's a combination of ingredients  that I haven't seen on food blogger planet, so hopefully I can get you to try it: Brussels sprouts with sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts. In my opinion, the dried tomatoes are a good vegetarian substitute for the very popular bacon in Brussels sprouts dishes.
We love to have them with pan-fried golden brown Gnocchi in garlic sage butter. I once tried to make Gnocchi myself. That wasn't a real success, in fact, they turned back into mashed potatoes when tried to fry them in butter. If you have a really good recipe for homemade Gnocchis that survive first cooking and then frying, please pass this on to me, will you? Until then, I'll be stuck with the fresh supermarket ones.

2 cups Brussels Sprouts, cleaned and quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons sun-dried tomatoes, sliced
3 tablespoons pine nuts

Gnocchis in Sage Garlic Butter (optional)
2 tablespoons butter
2 garlic cloves, sliced
3 tablespoon fresh sage leaves, sliced
400g ready-made Gnocchis

Serves 2-3
Preheat oven to 200C.
Put the Brussels sprouts in a bowl. Splash the olive oil over the sprouts  and season with salt and pepper. Stir so the olive oil coats the vegetables evenly.
Spread the Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 20-25 minutes. Turn them over once for even roasting.
In the meantime, roast the pine nuts in a dry pan over medium heat for 5-7 minutes.
When the Brussels sprouts are ready, transfer them to a serving dish, combine with the sliced dried tomatoes and sprinkle the pine nuts on top.

Sage Butter Gnocchis
Cook the Gnocchis according to instructions. Drain.
Heat the butter in a pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and sage and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the Gnocchis and cook until golden brown. Add the Brussels sprouts and stir. Transfer to serving bowl and serve immediately.
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25 January, 2010

Warm Breakfast Plum Wraps

Am I the only one who never thought of putting fruits/yogurt into a wrap instead of veggies/meat/sauce and have the whole thing for breakfast? This is another amazing recipe that is so fast, so versatile, so healthy and so delicious...you really wonder why you wouldn't come up with such obvious thing yourself. This recipe was inspired by a similar dish from the book Probiotic and Prebiotic Recipes for Health.
I love my wraps warm, and I also love the combination of warm fruit topped with some cool yogurt. With regards to the fruit, you can basically put in here whatever you fancy, warm or cold: berries, bananas, plums, .....
Sprinkle some nuts over it for some crunchiness, and you have a filling, wholesome, and utterly delicious meal to start the day.

1 whole wheat tortilla wrap
2 plums, pitted and cut into cubes/wedges
1 tablespoon chopped walnuts
1-2 tablespoons yogurt
1 teaspoon of honey/agave syrup (optional)

Serves 1
Put the chopped plums in a microwave-safe bowl and heat them for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. You don't want to cook the plums, rather warm them up a little. Put the tortilla wrap on a plate and heat in the microwave for 15-20 seconds. Arrange the plums in a line in the middle of the wrap. Pour the yogurt over the plum. Sprinkle the walnuts over the yogurt and sweeten with honey or agave if desired. Roll up the wrap. Serve immediately.

Probiotic and Prebiotic Recipes for Health: 100 Recipes that Battle Colitis, Candidiasis, Food Allergies, and Other Digestive Disorders 
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22 January, 2010

Mock Marzipan - With Whole Wheat Semolina

Here it is: marzipan for the poor man, or a  marzipan sweet for people allergic to nuts. 
Marzipan has always been a very popular sweet in the Christmas time in Germany, and especially marzipan from Lubeck is known as the finest and best. Now Lubeck is in West Germany, and before the fall of the German wall in 1989 the people living in East Germany had no access at all to anything produced in West Germany.
The other day, I talked to my mom about homemade marzipan and she told me that in East Germany we used to make mock marzipan at home, as nuts in general were hard to get in the shops or very expensive. I asked her to find the recipe for me. I tried it with whole spelt semolina to give it a bit of a healthy touch. It worked fine. According to my mom's handwritten cookbook, the amount of butter can vary from 125g to 250g in 250g semolina. I worked with the amounts given below and was happy with the result. Give it a try or two and you'll see what works best for you.


250g semolina (whole wheat or whole spelt semolina can be used, regular is fine too)
250g icing sugar
200g butter (room temperature)
2-3 tablespoons almond extract (for nut allergics rather vanilla extract)

Flavoring (Optional)
a little rum
orange zest

Coating (Optional)
icing sugar
cocoa powder
Combine the basic ingredients and your preferred flavoring and knead until well combined. The batter should well stick together. If the mixture becomes too dry, add a little condensed milk. Make balls of the size if a cherry, and roll them in your favorite coating. Alternatively, press the batter in candy/marzipan molds. Keep in the fridge to cool, then press the marzipan shapes out of the molds.
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21 January, 2010

Orange Cranberry Muffins

After baking hundreds of muffins in the last few months, I thought muffins were disaster-proof. They are not: my bad streak in the kitchen last week extended from several dinner disasters to breakfast disasters.  In fact, muffin disasters. Two in a row. I can't even remember the first one, I think I tried millet flour in it, and this seemed to be the reason for some strange, almost burning aftertaste in the mouth. The other ones were some chocolate cherry coconut muffins. They came out dry as dust. It wasn't really their fault, as I forgot one ingredient that would have definitely made them moister.....
It was time to stop experimenting for a few days and cook and bake some good old classics.
Since I used lots of orange zest in my Christmas bakings, it has become one of my favorite flavors. In fact, these muffins with orange zest,  dried cranberries and pistachios were our Christmas muffins, the moistest, fluffiest muffins ever, full of flavor and, I dare say, disaster-proof. As Christmas is over now, I just call them Orange Cranberry Muffins. Simple as that. Bon appetit!

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

1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup agave syrup
1/2 cup buttermilk or yogurt
5 tablespoons canola oil

1/4 cup pecan nuts, chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped
grated zest of 1 big orange 

Yields ca. 6 muffins
Preheat oven to 200C. Line muffin tins with muffin liners.

Combine flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl and stir well. In another bowl, mix buttermilk/yogurt, canola oil, agave syrup and eggs. Combine wet with dry ingredients and stir until just blended. Don't overmix.
Fold in orange zest, cranberries and pecans. Keep some of the cranberries and pecans to garnish the tops of the muffins.
Spoon mixture into the muffin cases. Top with small amount of chopped pecans and cranberries.
Bake for about 20 minutes. Let cool a little before dusting with icing sugar (if desired).
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19 January, 2010

Tuna Pasta with Spinach and White Beans

This is an easy and fast pasta dish, that is almost completely made out of ingredients that you probably have already at home, perhaps not the fresh spinach leaves, but you can use frozen ones too, or leave it out altogether. 
I should collect more of these fast and out of the kitchen pantry recipes, as my last few supper cooking experiments weren't a real success, if not a total disaster. One was a Jamie Oliver grilled lamb minced meat recipe, which I managed to transform into lamb paste.  I still grilled it hoping it would transform back into something tasty or at least edible. Even the cat didn't like it. The other disaster was just the wrong kind of pasta (angel hair I used) with homemade pesto. The pasta stuck together like glue, the pesto had absolutely no chance to get through.  I am not sure what I was thinking when I threw these pastas into the boiling water, let's just call it one of the occasional kitchen blackouts.
Back to the tuna pasta: you can't really make many mistakes with this one. It's a hearty and filling protein-laden meal, low in fat, easy, simple, yet delicious. Can be cooked in no time as a second dinner, in case the first one didn't turn out too well.......



250g pasta

1 teaspoon olive oil
5 spring onions, chopped
2 red chilis, de-seeded and chopped (or 1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes)
6 anchovy fillets, chopped
2 cups of fresh spinach leaves, chopped
1 tin of tuna, drained
1 cup of white beans, cooked

Serves 2
 Cook pasta according to instructions. When ready, drain and reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta water.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a pan. Fry onions for about 2 minutes, then add chili and anchovy fillets. Cook until anchovy has dissolved, about 3 minutes. Stir occasionally. Stir in beans and the tuna, cook for another few minutes. Add the spinach and cook until it is wilted. Take off the heat. Stir the pasta into the tuna bean mixture, and add pasta water as needed, to make it a little saucier. Serve immediately.
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15 January, 2010

Walnut Raisin Honey Nuggets

Does an average household have regular paper cups in their pantry? I wonder!!

I found Hannah Montana paper cups in my house. I've got kids, but they are not in the Hannah Montana age yet (thank God). I have no idea who brought them in, they were in the arts & crafts raw material box of my son. Anyway, I am glad I found them as they were of good use for this recipe.

Since I started cooking and experimenting with healthy recipes my kitchen pantry usually stocks all sorts of nuts and grains and dried fruit. This Walnut Raisin Honey Nugget recipe appealed to me immediately. I had all ingredients at home when I decided to make them, and gladly found those paper cups. What a mission it would have been, to shoot out just for some stupid paper cups. As a mother of two, lots of my cooking (and in this case just combining the ingredients) happens at night with no way I can go to the shops in case something is missing.

In case you don't have paper cups, go buy them. These nuggets are worth them. My whole freezer is full of them now (full of nuggets in paper cups that is). They are good for a breakfast on the go as they are quite filling. The book I took the recipe from states 450 calories for each nugget. But good calories, and yummy ones too. I love to eat them as afternoon snack too. As I am currently training for a marathon, my energy consumption is quite high on training days. This nugget is a perfect after-run carb reload to recover my tired muscles and to give me some energy for another hour or two to run after my kids in the park and carry them, or their bicycles, tricycles and scooters or any combination of the above home.
(adapted from Probiotic and Prebiotic Recipes for Health)

2 tablespoons raisins
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
2 teaspoons flax seeds
2 teaspoons honey
3 tablespoons rolled oats, or other high fiber whole grain cereal

1 paper cup

Serves 1
Combine all ingredients and mix well. Spoon the mixture into the paper cup, pressing it down with a spoon. Place the cup in the freezer for at least two hours, or cover the the cup with plastic wrap to freeze for up to one month. When ready to serve, remove from the freezer, peel off the paper cup and eat immediately.
If you leave the cup out for too long, the mixture will become crumbly and cannot be eaten as finger food.

Probiotic and Prebiotic Recipes for Health: 100 Recipes that Battle Colitis, Candidiasis, Food Allergies, and Other Digestive Disorders 
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13 January, 2010

Salted Lupini Beans

Lupini Beans made it into the 2010 SAVEUR Top 100!!! That's great, but what's more important to me is that I finally learned about the English name of these beans. LUPINI BEANS!!!!! I got to know lupini beans as a popular salty snack in the Mediterranean region and Portugal. They were introduced to me as "Lupins" and oh so many Google searches did not get me anywhere. In Portugal they are called Tremo├žos. There they are served in pubs with beer, like you would get a little bowl of peanuts in other places. Lupini beans make a perfect, healthy appetizer to a nice, big meal or even just a snack between meals. They have the second highest protein content of all beans, after soy beans.

I saw ready-made Lupini beans in the shop. But when I found dried ones in our local supermarket, my do-it-yourself determination was switched on. It was a coincidence that I found the dried ones in our local supermarket, as they were called Tarmose on the package. Googling that also did not get me far. It might well be that this is the term of some Indian language for the Lupini, although I haven't found an Indian or subcontinental dish using them.

Lupini beans are a legume that requires lots of soaking as they are extremely bitter.  Once they have been soaked long enough, they are kept in brine. Lupini beans are surrounded by quite a tough skin with a little opening. Eating them, therefore, takes a little practice: You bite a bigger whole with your front teeth where the little hole is already and then pop the bean into your mouth.

(Print Recipe)

250g (1 1/2 cups) dry Lupini Beans
lots of water
3 tablespoons salt (or to taste)
Soak the dried beans for 8 hours or overnight in water. Cook them in lots of water until tender, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Drain and transfer to a bowl or pot. Cover with water again. Drain, rinse and cover with fresh water as often as you can, up to every 4-6 hours. Depending on how often you changed the water, the bitter taste should be gone after 2 to 4 days. Sometimes it takes longer, just be warned.

Two tips to make the bitterness go away faster:
1. Cook the lupins longer (about 2 hours rather than 1 1/2)
2. Use hot (almost boiling) water to soak them (after the cooking).

Once you find the lupini beans edible without any bitter aftertaste, keep them in airtight container covered in water and add about 3 tablespoons of salt (or more or less according to taste). Store covered in that brine in the fridge. There they keep for about two weeks.
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12 January, 2010

Plum Salad with Mixed Greens and Feta Cheese

Whenever you come across some really nice juicy and sweet plums, buy them and make this salad!!!
 I love the sweet taste of fresh fruit combined with greens or vegetables in a salad. Whenever I come along a recipe that has apples, grapes, pomegranates etc. I must try it. This one here caught my eye, as the dressing consists of a combination of pureed plum and balsamic vinegar.
The combination of flavors in this salad is absolutely amazing, the sweet plums go really well with the feta cheese and the nut give some crunch to the dish. A light salad perfect for hot summer days (yes, I  know it's winter now in most parts of the world) or just as a light meal after some heavy or festive food days (that applies more to winter, though).

adapted from Probiotic and Prebiotic Recipes for Health

4 cups of mixed salad greens
6 plums, depitted and cut into wedges
4 tablespoons pecan halves (or walnuts)
4 tablespoons of feta cheese

2 plums, depitted
2 tablespoons onion, chopped
3 tablespoons red balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
2 teaspoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Serves 2
For the dressing, combine all ingredients in a food processor and puree.

For the salad, combine mixed greens and plum wedges in a serving bowl. Sprinkle pecan halves, feta cheese and dressing over the salad. Serve immediately.

Probiotic and Prebiotic Recipes for Health: 100 Recipes that Battle Colitis, Candidiasis, Food Allergies, and Other Digestive Disorders 
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10 January, 2010

Three Beans and a Broccoli - in Ginger Soy Dressing

One of my craziest culinary experiences  here in Dubai, if not THE one, was just after we moved here, almost 6 years ago. I guess most people know the Burj Al Arab, the sailboat shaped 7 star hotel. We once went to a hotel nearby which offered a panoramic view on the Burj Al Arab which is illuminated at night, to have a light dinner. Found a table outside, enjoyed the view on the hotel and the sea and ordered some salads. I ordered a Three Tomato Salad as I was suspecting something fancy made of three different sort of tomatoes. The price of that salad also made me suspect something extraordinary. You want to know what was on my plate when it arrived? Three cherry tomatoes cut into halves on two or three lettuce leaves. Not only tomatoes, no, cherry tomatoes. The smallest ones you can find.
Well, lesson was learned, as we obviously just paid for the view and not for quality food.

However, this salad contains tons of beans, three different sorts, colors and shapes: tiny mung beans, soy beans and green beans. And some broccoli. It's spiced up with a hearty dressing made of fresh ginger and soy sauce. And for the tough ones, you can even sprinkle fresh red chillis over the salad. This salad is well on the way of becoming my favorite, as the mung and soy beans can be made in bigger amounts and kept in the fridge for a couple of days. The green beans and the broccoli are steamed tender in no more than 5 minutes. And that's it. This salad tastes great cold. It is a great starter and can as well be a great lunch. Bon appetit!

1/2 cup dry mung beans
1/2 cup dry soy beans
1 cup green beans, cut in halves
1 cup broccoli florets
2 red chillis, deseeded and slices (optional)

2 tablespoons of sesame oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon clear honey
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 inch piece fresh root ginger, finely grated

Serves 3-4
Soak the soy beans for 2-3 hours. Cook in plenty of lightly salted water until tender, but still slightly crispy, about 20 minutes. Drain. Set aside and let cool.
Cook the mung beans in slightly salted water until tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside and let cool.
Steam or cook the broccoli and the green beans for about 5 minutes. Transfer them to ice cold water, so the cooking process is stopped and they keep their vibrant color. Drain.
Combine all ingredients for the dressing.
Combine all vegetables in a serving bowl. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and stir. Sprinkle red chilli over the salad. The salad is best be eaten cold.
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07 January, 2010

Apple Walnut Squares

Anyone here whose New Year resolution was a low-fat and no-refined-sugar diet? Try these apple walnut squares. They are sweetened with dried dates and otherwise contain rolled oats, whole wheat flour and apple juice. Now that I look at the ingredients again, they are in fact vegan.
I love the smell of cooked apples with cinnamon. I think this is one of the main reasons, why these cookies appealed to me when I first found the recipe. Needless to say, I also love to eat cooked apple with cinnamon.
These squares are best eaten straight out of the oven. But you can also heat them up for breakfast, or, like I did yesterday, have them as afternoon snack in the car while driving.

2 large apples, grated
1 1/2 cups quick cooking rolled oats
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup apple juice
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2/3 cup chopped dried dates
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Yields 9 squares
Preheat oven to 180C degrees.Coat a 8x8" baking dish with cooking spray.

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Let stand for 15 minutes, so the oats and flour can absorb the apple juices. Bake for 30 minutes.
Cut into squares while still warm.
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04 January, 2010

Walnut Prune Cookies

Why do healthy cookies always look so ugly? I am in a serious predicament here, as I am aiming to post healthy, wholesome foods and dishes in this blog. At the same time, I'd like to convince my readers that these foods are tasty. And for that, they should look good in the picture. Not so the common healthy cookie.

To tell you the truth, the icing on the cookies is in fact unnecessary for taste reasons. I put it on to make them look better. Otherwise they would have been some dark brown with black spots sort of round but still uneven baked something. Unphotographable!!!!!
I baked these last night and I especially got an icing pipe for this in the afternoon. What an effort..... Anyway, as this is my first icing pipe, I was not very proficient with it yet. It was also quite late when I used it. Not all cookies turned out as pretty as they were supposed to with the icing on. As these cookies were to be my husband's breakfast this morning, I told him to eat the ugly ones first, so I can photograph the prettier ones a little later. Here we go: The nine prettiest cookies out of 25.

As everyone seems to blog about their New Year resolutions, I will do so too: Only recently I discovered the foodgawker website, a gallery of finest food photography shot by food bloggers. I WANT MY PICTURES ON FOODGAWKER. So far, they have rejected two submissions. I will improve my photographic skills, and keep trying. And keep eating healthy foods. That's all.

3/4 cup pitted prunes
3/4 walnuts, roughly chopped

1 ripe banana, mashed
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/8 cup canola oil

1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oats (quick cooking or regular)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda

100g cream cheese
2 tablespoons agave syrup

Yields 25 cookies
Preheat oven to 180C degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. You might have to bake these cookies in two batches.
Combine prunes and walnut in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. In a bowl, whisk together banana, egg, vanilla, baking soda, applesauce and oil. Stir in chopped prunes and walnuts. Add oats, flour, cinnamon and salt and stir until just combined.
Drop heaped teaspoons of the dough on the baking sheet. Gently press the dough down with your fingertips or a spoon to give the cookies the shape of a disc. Bake for about 20 minutes. Let cool on wire racks.
For the icing, combine cream cheese and agave syrup. Using an icing pipe, decorate each cookie with the cream cheese mixture. Let the icing become solid before transferring cookies to an airtight container.
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03 January, 2010

Beetroot Salad with Green Beans and Pine Nuts

Fresh beetroot should carry a warning: Don't wear white clothes while cooking. And all recipes using beetroots should list rubber gloves as one of the "ingredients".
I was wearing a white T-shirt (although it was an old one) which had lovely pink dots all over afterwards, and my hands were dark red until I soaked them in long bath later at night. Now look at this salad and I say: it was all worth it.
 For quite some time, I have been looking to use some winter root vegetables in my dishes. We had turnip casseroles and potato bakes, but secretly I always wanted to cook with beetroot. Fresh ones are so much better than pickled ones drowned in vinegar. The flavor is sweet and earthy, the texture smooth and silky and the dark red color just beats everything.

We had this salad cold as side dish to filet steaks and I will definitely do a beetroot salad again. It is so full of flavor, not to speak of the goodness they carry. They are full of vitamin C, potassium, manganese and folic acid. 

300g fresh beetroot bulbs
150g green beans
150g spinach leaves (or beetroot leaves)
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon red balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1 garlic clove
salt and pepper

2-3 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese

Serves 3-4
Remove the leaves from the beetroot and scrub the bulbs. Place in a pot of boiling water. Cook covered until tender, about 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of the roots. If you can pierce with a knife through to the middle of the root, they will be done.
Drain the beetroot and let cool enough to handle them. Peel them and cut into wedges. It is wise not to wear anything white while you are doing this. It might even be a good idea to wear rubber gloves if you don't want to have beetroot colored hands for the rest of the day. Set aside.
Cook or steam the beans for about 4 minutes. They should keep a little crispiness to the bite. Drain the beans and put them into ice cold water. The cooking process is stopped by this and the beans keep the vibrant green color.
Steam the spinach leaves until just wilted. Set aside.
Toast the pine nuts in a skillet on medium heat for a few minutes. 
Prepare the dressing by combining olive oil, vinegar, capers, garlic clove, salt and pepper.
On a serving dish, put a layer of spinach at the bottom. Arrange the beetroot wedges on top. Surround them with the green beans. Sprinkle pine nuts and feta cheese over the salad. Drizzle over the salad dressing.
The salad can be eaten warm or cold. If you decide to serve it later, keep the feta cheese separate until serving, as the beetroot will color it red.
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01 January, 2010

Low Fat Orange Coconut Granola

Let me tell you some good and some bad things about motherhood today. As I am still breastfeeding my youngest one, I have hardly been drinking alcohol for months, apart from the occasional ONE glass. Now yesterday was New Year's Eve. On the occasion, I had TWO glasses + some white wine in the mushroom sauce of our dinner. I don't know if it was the overall amount or the combination of red and white. I felt sooooo drunk, I was ready for bed at 11pm. This is how I ended the year of 2009. That was the bad thing, as I could easily drink one bottle of wine without feeling drunk or having a hangover, years ago.

Now the good thing. Once you have a family and especially small children at home, it is hard to find time for yourself. I started running, mostly alone. I needed a sport that I can do at any time of the day, without big preparation, just when I feel I can squeeze it in my schedule, even spontaneously. I enjoy being all by myself hanging in there with my thoughts or just switch off completely. I started doing races too, which I really enjoy. Last year, I decided to run my first full marathon in 2010. I wanted my debut in some nice place, so I chose and registered for the Paris Marathon in April. I am currently following a 16-week marathon training program that has me running 4-5 times per week. Today I was supposed to run a 23km run (14 miles).
I didn't feel like it at all when I woke up this morning with a rotten feeling in my head and tummy. Hangover! I fixed myself a vitamin and fiber loaded breakfast. See the picture, this is what I had. Layers of fresh fruit alternating with low-fat yogurt covered with homemade granola. It helped me recover and by 3pm I was ready to run the distance. More than two hours later I felt absolutely great!!! I feel the freshest and happiest after having a quick shower after a nice long run mixed with that true feeling of achievement. What a good start of 2010. I am quite proud of myself. Can I say that?

Now the granola. It is actually my Christmas granola, as I put lots of orange zest and cinnamon in. The coconut looks like little snow flakes. Anyway, I decided to give it a more down-to-earth name, as it can be consumed at any time of the year. The fact that it is made without added butter or oil need to be pointed out too, for all those who's new year resolution is to go less sugar or low fat.

Happy New Year!

2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup wheat bran
1/2 cup flax seeds
1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts pistachios)
1 cup desiccated coconuts
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
4 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup chopped dried fruit (apricots, raisins, cranberries, currants)

Yields ca. 15 servings
Preheat oven to 150C degrees.
Combine orange juice, honey, cinnamon, vanilla extract and orange peel in a pot. Cook over medium heat until the honey has melted. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine rolled oats, wheat bran, flaxseed, and chopped nuts. Keep coconut aside as yet. Pour the honey-orange juice mixture over the oat mixture and mix gently until the oats are thoroughly coated. Spread the oats in a thin layer on a baking sheet and place it in the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Turn the granola over after about 10-15 minutes. At this stage, add the coconut and bake for another 10 minutes. Take out of the oven. Stir in the dried fruit. Let cool completely before storing in airtight container.
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