30 April, 2010

Cherry Pistachio Biscotti

I want to squeeze in a last recipe in April, as I have posted comparatively little this month. I mentioned in one of my earlier April posts that we had a streak of bad luck. It seems over but we are still picking up the pieces.
Since I didn't really have time for culinary disasters (even though they are not as tragic or annoying as those other disasters of ours), I sought an easy way out and took my Almond Molasses Biscotti. I simply changed the main flavor-giving ingredients by adding toasted pistachios and dried cherries to it. I tried this combo some time ago with a different recipe, but they turned out crumbly and hard to cut.
Now these ones are hard to mess up. They turned out beautiful in their color combination, light and crunchy, and I love the little sourness that the cherries add to them. They make them lively and exciting, a nice little sweet treat whenever you need one... I am saying that because I needed lots of them recently.....

1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ground

1/3 cup pistachios, toasted
1/3 cup dried cherries

1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup agave syrup

Yields ca. 15
Preheat oven to 180C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl, combine flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon. Mix until well blended.
In a dry non-greased pan, toast the pistachio kernels over medium heat, for about 3-5 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Let cool, then chop roughly. Stir in chopped pistachios and dried cherries to the flour mixture.

In another bowl, whisk together the egg, vanilla extract and agave. Pour the egg mixture onto the flour almond mixture. Stir until all ingredients are incorporated.

Spread some flour on a clean kitchen surface and knead the dough for a couple of minutes. Form a flat long log, about 1 inch high and 5 inches wide. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until center feels firm to touch.

Let the log cool for about 15 minutes or until cool enough to handle. Use a serrated knife and cut 1/2 inch slices off the log. Reduce heat of the oven to 120C. Spread out the biscotti slices on the baking sheet and bake for another 20 minutes. Turn them over halfway. Let cool completely.Store in airtight container.
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28 April, 2010

Broccoli and Wheat Berry Salad

The only food magazine that I read regularly is the Middle Eastern issue of BBC Food. I have no idea if it is any different from any BBC Food issues. It's a monthly magazine and the only place I've seen it for sale in Dubai is the local organic food shop here.
I love it for their great easy, fast and healthy everyday recipes, nothing too fancy nonetheless very delicious. In the April issue they run a page with 10 simple lunch ideas, at least three were immediately shortlisted and this is one of them: Broccoli and Spelt Salad. I made it yesterday and took the pictures, put it on the fridge and took it out to have for lunch today. A day later it looked exactly the same, and was what was promised in the magazine: a light lunch, yet filling, and utterly tasty. Apart from that, great to prepare in advance the night before and take to work the next day. I used wheat berries instead of spelt, but I don't think this makes a big difference tastewise. 
 adapted from BBC Good Food (Middle East issue)

1 cup of uncooked wheat berries (or spelt)
1 cup broccoli florets
1 tablespoon capers

1 tablespoon olive oil 
1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese + more to garnish

Serves 2-4
Cook wheat berries in 3 cups of slightly salted water until soft and chewy, about 45 minutes, perhaps longer. Drain, rinse  and let cool.
Steam the broccoli florets for about 3-5 minutes. Put them immediately into ice cold water, to stop the cooking process. This way, they will retain their bright green color. Drain.

In a little bowl, combine olive oil, vinegar and Parmesan cheese for the dressing.

In big bowl, combine wheat berries, broccoli and capers. Pour over the dressing and mix gently. Sprinkle grated Parmesan on top to garnish. To be eaten cold or at room temperature.
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24 April, 2010

Pasta with Lemon Rosemary Chicken and Asparagus

How about creating a dish by starting with its spices and herbs?
The idea for this simple pasta dish started with my love for rosemary and lemon zest. I have always been in love with rosemary, its wooden, earthy smell and flavor. In fact, I already love it for the smell on my hands after preparing it for a meal.
My love for lemon zest is somewhat newer. I find the flavor so fresh, pure and natural. It's a perfect complement to the earthy dark flavor of the rosemary. As I always use lemon and rosemary when we have Roast Chicken, it was obvious to use small pieces of chicken for my pasta dish. Now the vegetable part was still missing.
Ever since I was pregnant with my second kid, I have loved green vegetables. To be honest, any dish looks better and/or healthier to me if it has something green in it. This time I needed something small/thin and quick-cooking so, decided to go for green baby asparagus. And that is already it. Stir in the cooked pasta, add some more olive oil if it seems to dry, sprinkle some freshly ground pepper over it and ready is your meal.
By the way, I had the chicken asparagus mix stirred into brown rice the other day and it was delicious too.


250g pasta (I usually use whole wheat Fusili)

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 chicken breasts, cut into bites sizes
1 cup green baby asparagus, cut into 1-inch-pieces
salt and pepper to taste

Serves 2
Cook pasta according to instructions.

In a wok or deep pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Throw in the rosemary and fry for 1-2 minutes until it becomes fragrant. Add chicken pieces and lemon zest and fry for about 5 minutes over medium-high, stirring frequently. Season with salt and pepper. Turn the heat down to medium, then stir in the asparagus, and put a lid on the pan. Cook until asparagus is softened, but still has a bite of a bite, about 5 minutes.

Drain the pasta, stir into the chicken and asparagus mixture. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper. Serve immediately.
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22 April, 2010

Banana Pecan Granola Bars

I love to sing along loudly in the car (when I am alone): I sing anything from Miley Cyrus over Rihanna to Red Hot Chili Peppers or The White Stripes, no matter if I know the lyrics or not. I usually have a self-made CD running for several weeks or months in a row. Because of that my 4-year old kid can sing along too, and even has his favorites: he loves Johnny Cash (song no. 15), Amy McDonald (no. 5), Beyonce (no. 3) and Katy Perry (no. 12).
I also love to eat while driving. I had a few errands to run last week, and was in need for some snack to have on the road.Those three bananas used in the recipe were becoming VERY ripe on the kitchen counter and called out loud to be used. I decided to make granola bars. All other ingredients I chose from the the list of matching flavors in THE FLAVOR BIBLE, still my current favorite kitchen book. By the way, did you know that bananas and parsley were matching flavors? Can't really imagine a dish with those two right now.....
Anyway, the granola bars turned out very well. With the bananas being the binder, they got crunchy but still chewy and light on the bite. This recipe is definitely a keeper!!!

1 1/2 cups regular rolled oats
1 cup coconut flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup pecan nuts, chopped
1 cup dried fruit (I used 1/2 chopped dried figs, and 1/2 raisins)

3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Yields  ca. 15 bars/squares
Preheat oven to 175C. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. 

In a large bowl, combine rolled oats, pecan nuts, sesame seeds and coconut flakes. Stir in allspice and cinnamon. Add dried fruit and stir until well and evenly mixed. Make sure the dried fruit do not stick together in big batches.
In another bowl, combine canola oil, mashed banana and vanilla extract. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and stir until well combined.
Spread the batter evenly onto the baking sheet, about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch high.
Alternatively, use a large cookie cutter and press spoonfuls of the batter into it. Remove cookie cutter. Bake for about 20 minutes or until edges are golden brown. The granola bars tend to get brown at the bottom first. Make sure not to burn them. Let cool completely, store in airtight container and keep in the fridge.

The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs 
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20 April, 2010

Cold Rice Salad with Rosemary, Bacon and Veggies

Spring has arrived and before you know BBQ afternoons, outdoor potlucks and picnics will be our favorite weekend pastimes.
Ever since I started this blog I always check out salad bars in cafes and supermarkets to get new inspiration. This rice salad was on the menu of my favorite cafe here in Dubai, the Lime Tree Cafe. They are best known for their carrot cake (one slice is about a meal for two), but I like their sandwiches and salads nonetheless. 
The other day I had this rice salad in Lime Tree Cafe which I try to copy here. It is THE perfect salad to bring to a potluck or a picnic. I loved the combination of grains and lentils as a base with some mild roasted veggies, topped up with little crispy bacon cubes and pine nuts. The strong and earthy flavor of rosemary makes a dressing unnecessary.
The salad is best cold from the fridge and better the next day, as the rosemary and bacon have some time to spread their flavors. The preparation is a little messy, as you may have three pots and pans on top of the stove at the same time, while the veggies and bacon roast inside the oven.
By the way, for this salad I got the biggest compliment possible: my 2-year old daughter ate it with big appetite and kept on asking for more!!

2 cups mixed uncooked rice (I used 1 cup brown, and 1/2 of each red and wild rice)
3/4 cup brown lentils, uncooked
2 red bell peppers, sliced into bite sizes
1 1/2 cups pumpkin, cut into bite size
100g smoked bacon cubes
1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted

fresh rosemary
salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Serves 6
Cook mixed rice with 4 cups of water and some salt and a tablespoon of rosemary leaves, until tender (depending on the rice being used, about 30-45 minutes). When ready, rinse under cold water and keep aside.

In another pot, cook the lentils with 1 1/2 cups salted water until cooked, about 30 minutes. Make sure the lentils still have some bite, they should not get mushy. When done, drain and keep aside.

On a baking sheet, combine bacon cubes, pumpkin and bell pepper. Season with salt and pepper and fresh rosemary. Grill on the middle shelf for about 20 minutes, or until vegetables are cooked. Turn over from time to time to provide even cooking. 

In a dry pan, toast the pine nuts over medium heat until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.

In a serving bowl, combine rice, lentils oven-roasted bacon and veggies and pine nuts. Stir until well mixed. Season with chopped fresh rosemary, salt and pepper. Keep in the fridge until cooled thoroughly. Tastes better the next day.

Before serving, add feta cheese crumbles to garnish.
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17 April, 2010

Carrot Banana Muffins

Another day, another muffin recipe.... I have to share this one as it, once again, fulfills many of my criteria to healthier food: these muffins are vegan and sugar free, only three tablespoons of agave syrup are added for six muffins. They contain vegetables, fruit and dried fruit. As all my muffins, they are made with whole wheat flour, but rolled oats and flax seeds are added to it.
And apart from all that, they are utterly delicious. I like the combination of banana and carrot, it's a very tasty combination, especially with allspice and cinnamon added. In fact, I had to make them three times in a row, as they were always eaten up before I could take pictures.

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoon flax seeds
1 large carrot, finely grated (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup raisins

3 tablespoons canola oil
2 ripe medium bananas, mashed
3 tablespoons agave syrup

Yields 6
 Preheat oven to 180C. Line muffin tin with paper liners or coat with cooking  spray.

In a bowl, combine flour, oats, salt, baking powder, flax seeds and spices. Mix well. Stir in raisins and grated carrot.
In another bowl, combine oil, agave and mashed bananas. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Stir until just combined. Fill batter into muffin molds. Bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
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15 April, 2010

Chinese Dumplings with Vegetarian Filling

I am not a big fan of tofu, although I tried many times to actually like it. It's the texture that I find too wobbly when the tofu is cubed. That combined with its tastelessness or sometimes soapy taste made me give up on tofu.
Alright, now I am sitting here trying to sell you a tofu-filling for Jiao Zi (Chinese dumplings). 
I don't know what struck me when I searched for vegetarian fillings for Chinese dumplings, that made me go for a tofu based one. Never mind, it was a good decision. And I think I learned something about tofu. Probably nothing train-smashing new, but it was eye-opening for me: tofu adopts the flavors of the rest of the dish. As long as a dish has strong-flavored ingredients, tofu will play along and act as a healthy filler.
This vegetarian filling was inspired by a recipe that I found here. The strong-flavored ingredients in this filling are mushrooms, chives, soy sauce and rice wine. The original recipe asked for dried mushrooms and Chinese chives. Dried mushrooms I couldn't find and I wasn't quite sure what Chinese chives are, so I went for regular ones. It's a great combination, and whenever I feel like Chinese dumplings, I will dish up these vegetarian ones too, next to my pork-filled Jiao Zi.


Dumpling Wrappers
1 1/2 cups plain flour (I used whole wheat flour and it turned out fine)
1/4 cup water

Vegetarian Filling
1/2 cup Shiitake mushrooms, finely chopped
1 bunch fresh chives, finely chopped
1/2 cup medium to firm tofu, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon rice wine
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg

1/4 cup soy sauce

Yields ca. 25 dumplings

Dumpling Dough
Put the flour in a bowl. Add water gradually in small amounts and knead into the flour. Once you start doing this, you’ll be able to judge how much water is required. The dough should not feel too hard, soft or sticky. Cover dough in bowl with a damp tea towel and leave for 30 minutes.

Prepare the Filling
In a large bowl, thoroughly mix all the filling ingredients together.

Prepare the Dumplings
Knead the dough a little more. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour as you roll the wrappers out. Dust surface with some flour and cut dough up into small pieces. Form small balls and roll them out as thinly as possible (approximately 8cm in diameter). You’ll have to judge the correct thickness. If they’re too thick, they won’t taste nice, and if they’re too thin, the possibility of tearing is greater, especially if you’re going to boil them.
Place a  teaspoon of filling onto the center. Don't use too much filling as the wrapper will tear.
Fold the wrapper in half and press together to form a half moon shape. Seal tight so that there are no gaps. Keep the dumplings covered with a damp towel if you don't cook them immediately. 

Cook the Dumplings
Fill a large pot with water and bring to boil. Add the dumplings (depending on the size of the pot not more than 10-15 at a time). Stir to prevent the dumplings from sticking together. Bring back to boil, then add 1/2 cup of cold water. Cover and repeat another two times. When dumplings boil for third time, they are ready. Drain and serve immediately with soy sauce. 

Any leftover dumplings can be pan-fried the next day, and are as delicious!!!!
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11 April, 2010

Banana Cherry Scones

I am very excited to post this recipe as it was lost for a few weeks. I made these scones a few times about a month ago. The recipe I might have never written it down. Or, chances are high, I did and just can't find it anymore. I keep my recipes either in files on my computer or printed out or hand written, and then they could be just anywhere. I've got piles of stuff almost everywhere, several on my desk, in various drawers, on the coffee table in the lounge, on the dining table (only when no guests are here). These piles include newspapers, magazines, printed recipes, wet wipes (for my two children) paper tissues, toys, work stuff, important documents.......piled chaos, in fact. I feel bad about it but I simply cannot find time to put everything back in its place all the time. The only comforting thing is, that nothing gets lost in this house. That's in fact a remark my mum made once. She comes to visit us from Germany twice a year. According to her, things are often in exactly the same place as during her last visit.
Anyway, here is the recipe of my beloved banana cherry scones. I love the sweetish taste of the banana in the scones and the fresh and sour taste of the dried cherries. Just the right thing to start the day with.


1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup dried cherries

1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 large, ripe bananas, mashed

Yields 6
Preheat oven to 200C. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking powder. Mix well. Stir in dried cherries.

In another bowl, combine beaten egg with olive oil and mashed bananas. Pour wet ingredients onto dry ingredients and stir until well combined. The batter is pretty wet. Form balls (size between golf and tennis ball) out of the batter and place them on the baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.
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09 April, 2010

Cherry Pistachio Spice Cookies

It's been some time since I tried new cookie recipes, and I am just wondering why. Or rather: What have we eaten in the meantime? I can't really come up with an explanation. Probably because the last month has just been crazy. Disaster struck several times. Things just fell apart around us, like both cars, water pumps, TV. Husband's website got hacked. The kids have been having coughs and colds for the past month. On top of that we had visitors from overseas. So the last thing on my mind was getting all creative in the kitchen. Instead I showed off my BEST OF recipes of the last few months, or quickly stirred together some muffins.
Anyway, I felt like making some cookies again a few days ago. Perhaps because I look forward to getting my brand new red Jeep Cherokee next week. Or because I really hope the bad spell is over now and we have time to look at the bright side of life again and enjoy cookies while doing so!!


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

1 egg
5 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup agave syrup
1/4 cup low fat yogurt 

1/2 cup chopped pistachios
3/4 cup dried cherries

Yields ca. 15-20
Preheat oven to 180C. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Mix well. Stir in the dried cherries.
In another bowl, beat the egg lightly. Stir in oil, agave and yogurt until well combined. Combine wet ingredients with dry ingredients. Drop teaspoons of the batter onto the baking sheet, leaving some space between the cookies. Sprinkle chopped pistachios on top of each cookie. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until cookies turn golden brown at the edges. Let cool completely on wire rack. Keep in airtight container.
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06 April, 2010

Prawn Curry with Coconut and Lemongrass

I love spicy food, and I can always be won over by a good curry, either Thai or Indian. I've never been to either countries, but there is plenty restaurants of both cuisines all over the world. Not so for the Vietnamese cuisine, and I actually do not know much about their culinary specialties. However, the other day I came across a Vietnamese curry recipe on Food Network which caught my eye. It combined the best of all curry worlds: coconut milk from the Thai cuisine, curry powder from the Indian cuisine. The extra note that makes this curry so special and Vietnamese is lemongrass.
I haven't really been cooking much with lemongrass before. I admit, I really missed out on something very good! I first cooked the original recipe with chicken. I made a few slight changes with the ingredients, e.g. using light coconut milk. I find it sufficient as it contains as much flavor, but doesn't leave you feel as stuffed after the meal. We also prefer the dish made with prawns. Altogether I just love this dish because it combines many of my favorite and generously healthy foods. I have been cooking it a few times for guests, and it has always been a great success.


1 tablespoon oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 stalks lemongrass, pale ends finely chopped

1 pound king size prawns, peeled and deveined, tails on
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
2 red hot chillis, minced (optional)

2 tablespoons curry powder
4 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons fish sauce
400ml (1 can) unsweetened coconut milk (light is fine)

Serves 4

In a large pan or wok, heat the oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic and lemongrass and cook until onions are turning golden, about 5-7 minutes. Stir frequently. Stir in ginger, pepper and chillis (if using). Add the prawns and cook until they turn orange/white, about 10 minutes.
Now stir in curry powder, soy sauce, fish sauce and coconut milk. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cover pan with a lid and let simmer for another 10 minutes. Remove lid and simmer until sauce has thickened a little.
Serve hot over brown rice.
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03 April, 2010

Coconut Banana Muffins with Dried Figs

I must admit these muffins are not the prettiest boys in town. But don't be deceived by the looks: they are absolutely delicious. I got quite ambitious when I realized their potential and have been playing around with the ingredients for some time (please read: my family is totally overdosed on them as they were being served daily for about 2 weeks in a row).
My main source for the slight changes being made in the recipe was my favorite cookbook The Flavor Bible. It is an amazing book, actually more a reference book than a cookbook as it does not contain recipes but lists all sorts of foods and basic ingredients in alphabetical order and their matching flavors. For this muffin recipe I have been reading the banana and coconut sections over and over again.
Now here is the result: a vegan muffin sweetened with bananas and dried figs supported by the mild flavor of coconut. Very little flour and no sugar needed. A perfectly healthy muffin that's good enough to have for breakfast.

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
1/4 cup dried figs, finely chopped

2 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup light coconut milk
4 tablespoons cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping (optional)
3 teaspoons brown sugar
3 tablespoons desiccated coconut

Yields 6
Preheat oven to 180C. Line muffins tins with paper liners.

In a bowl, combine all flour, salt, baking powder and coconut flakes. In another bowl, stir together bananas, coconut milk, oil and vanilla extract. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Stir in the dried figs.
Fill batter into muffin tin. Top each muffin with half a teaspoon of brown sugar and half a tablespoon of coconut flakes. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean.

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