29 July, 2010

Spanish Tortilla (Potato Onion Omelette)

What do you do when one person of the family prefers freshly baked breads only for breakfast? Getting dressed and run to the bakery shop first thing every morning? No. Not me. Not during my summer vacation. I just throw a few long lasting ingredients into a pan, and surprise that person with a hearty Spanish Tortilla. Well, that wouldn't be at 7am, if anyone was wondering (rather 11am, for those who need to know).
I am a sweet and liquid breakfast person if you know what I mean: fruits, granola, yogurt, milk and stuff. But I need about two hours from the moment I get up to develop an appetite. Savory breakfasts and brunches I can only have at almost lunchtime. So does my family, luckily, as I am not a morning person when in comes to extensive work in the kitchen.
During our summer vacation I rediscovered Spanish tortillas as the perfect brunch or late breakfast. It's made from ingredients that you definitely have in your house: eggs, potatoes, onions. That's all. It's easy to make, it's filling, it makes everyone happy. One of those old simple and easy recipes that you tend to forget with all these superfoods and super cooking techniques around. It reminds me of a quote that I read recently about increasing obesity figures around the world: If people cooked and ate like they did 50 or 100 years ago, there would be much less fat people or people suffering from diet-related diseases. These tortillas will surely not make you fat or sick.

5 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups waxy potatoes
1 onions, chopped

4 eggs

salt to taste

Serves 2-4
Peel the potatoes and chop them into almond sized pieces.  Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a frying pan. Add the potatoes and onions and fry until done, about 8-10 minutes. Keep stirring to provide even cooking. The potatoes should be cooked when they start browning. Season with salt in the pan. Turn the heat on low.
Beat the eggs in a bowl. Season with some more salt if you like. Pour the eggs over the onions and potatoes. Move the pan a little to make sure the gegg cover all the potatoes. Over low heat, let the egg set, about 5-8 minutes. Switch off the heat. Transfer the omelette onto a plate. Cover it with another plate and flip. Slide back into the pan and onto the warm but switched-off oven. Cook for another 2-4 minutes. Transfer to serving plate. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.
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24 July, 2010

Bacon Mushroom Spaetzle

Do you know spaetzle? It is a southern German pasta specialty.They are made of flour, eggs and salt. If I remember correctly, it's 8 eggs on 2 lbs of flour. My best friend from university now owns a little restaurant in Berlin that specialises in spaetzle dishes.
From what I know from my spaetzle restaurant friend, in order to make them at home, one needs a spaetzle cutter to get them into the right shape. I don't have one. I never made spaetzle myself. But I'd love to. I should get one of these spaetzle cutters while I am in Germany. It will surely be much more difficult to get these kind of kitchen utensils in Dubai.
Alright, I admit this is a lazy recipe. It's lazy because I am using readymade, dry spaetzle. It's basically more about the sauce which works well with any pasta. In fact, it is our all-time favorite pasta sauce. It thrown together in less time than the pasta needs for cooking. The bacon and the garlic do the main work for the flavor, the mushrooms bring the veggie freshness. I usually use just as much cream as it is needed to coat the pasta. If you like it saucier, put in more.
We have this sauce with some pasta sort at least once every fortnight. You can experiment with the veggies, if you get bored of the mushrooms. Any season will have some that will work well with bacon and cream: I like it very much with spinach. I can imagine zucchinis in there too. Or asparagus. You name it.

1/2 lb dry spaetzle

3 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 cup bacon, chopped or cubed
2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced

1/2 cup single cream
1/2 bouillon cube
salt and pepper to taste

Serves 2-3
In a large pot of slightly salted boiling water, cook the spaetzle according to instructions.

In a large pan, cook the bacon over medium heat. When some of its fat has been released, add the garlic. Keep stirring to prevent the garlic from burning. Cook for 1-2 minutes, then add the mushrooms. Cook for another 4-5 minutes, until mushrooms are cooked. Pour in cream. Crumble the bouillon cube and sprinkle over the bacon mushroom cream mixture. Turn heat down to low and let simmer for another 2-3 minutes.

When spaetzle are al dente, drain. Stir the drained pasta into the sauce until all spaetzle are well coated. Transfer to serving plates and serve immediately.
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21 July, 2010

Chocolate Zucchini Spelt Cake

I am still on vacation in Germany, visiting family and friends. I deeply enjoy my mom's traditional German homemade cuisine. As we are only here for a few days, everyday's lunch is a Sunday meal. I have noticed though that I can't eat as much as I used to, being now used to much lighter dishes and simply less food.
The Germans love their food, their fried fatty meats and sugary treats. One can obviously see that around their midriffs. It is shocking to see about 80% of adults and an enormous number of kids being heavily overweight.
Anyway, I also wanted to cook or bake something for my mom. Veggie cakes like carrot cakes or zucchini cakes are pretty much unknown in Germany. My mom grows her own zucchinis in the garden, so I decided to make a zucchini chocolate cake. The only whole meal flour I found in the kitchen was spelt flour. Spelt is said to be less allergenic than wheat and gives its dishes a deeper and nuttier taste. However, it is also said to make baked goods a little more dry than whole wheat flour, so I upped the zucchini by half a cup. I used olive oil instead of butter, as my mom only had margarine which is not a healthy ingredient because of their transfats.
The result was a delicious chocolate cake that everyone loved and even my kids (usually quite skeptic about my baked goods) gobbled down and kept asking for more. Their verdict (and mine too): simply irresistible with a glass of cold fresh milk!!


1 1/2 cups spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2 eggs
3/4 cup agave syrup
1/4 cup olive oil

1 1/2 cups grated zucchini (about 1 large zucchini)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Yields 1 loaf
Preheat oven180C (350F). Grease a loaf tin or line with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cocoa powder.
In another bowl, beat the eggs. Whisk in agave syrup and olive oil. Combine wet ingredients with dry ingredients until just combined. Stir in grated zucchinis and walnuts.
Transfer batter to prepared loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes. Take out of the tin immediately after baking and let cool on wire rack.
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17 July, 2010

Date Brownies

One can never have enough dessert recipes. One can never have enough brownie recipes. One can never have enough brownie recipes that are sort of healthy. Here is another one:  there is no added sugar as it is sweetenend with dates and a little honey/agave. It is low fat as fat is replaced by unsweetened applesauce.It is made with whole wheat flour.
You can surely play around with the amount of dried dates. I find one cup of dried dates in the recipe very sweet, but decided to give you the recipe with that amount as you can still scale down according to your taste.
These brownies are very fudgy. The flavor of the dates is very strong. I am sure it can be nicely supplemented by adding a teaspoon of instant coffee powder to the batter. I am sure they freeze well too, although I didn't have chance to try this yet. They are always gone before...

1 cup dried dates, finely chopped
2oz (50g) dark chocolate (80% cocoa) or unsweetened baking chocolate
2 eggs

2 tablespoons agave syrup or honey
1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/4 milk (low fat is fine)

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Yields 12-15 squares
Preheat oven to 180C.

Put the chocolate into a medium sized bowl. Melt the chocolate in a hot water bath. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time. In a small bowl, combine apple sauce, milk and honey/agave. Add the mixture to the chocolate egg mixture.
In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Combine wet ingredients and dry ingredients. Stir in the finely chopped dates, making sure they are spread evenly in the batter. Pour batter into greased 8 inch baking tin. Bake for about 20 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting into squares.
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15 July, 2010

Chicken Green Pepper Stir Fry

I love to buy those pre-packed bell peppers, where you get one red, one yellow and one green. Now the predicament is that I usually only use the yellow and the red in my salads. The green bell peppers are a sort of  ugly stepsister that often finds itself at the bottom of the vegetable shelf in the fridge for quite some time before it gets thrown out.
But then, I don't like to throw out food. Recently I remembered that the Chinese use green peppers in their stir-fries very often, from when we lived in China (ok, that is more than 20 years ago.) Combined with onion, chicken (or beef) and a mixture of soy sauce and red wine to spice up the dish, it is now one of my favorite weekday dinners. Fast, simple, delicious, little ingredients.
We are on holiday at the German North Sea right now and this was our dinner last night. I took the picture above at 8.30pm. I love those long evenings. It only gets really dark between 10.30 and 11pm. And apart from this, this part of the world is just beautiful, with lots of fresh air, an amazing seaside with amazing tides and mudflats and lots of greenery. A welcome and much needed change to the heat of Dubai.


1/4 cup vegetable or chicken broth (use 1/2 cup if you like it saucier)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons red wine
1 tablespoon flour 

2 chicken breasts
2 green bell peppers
1 onion
1 teaspoon neutral cooking oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated

Serves 2-3
Whisk together broth, soy sauce, wine and flour in small bowl until flour has dissolved. Set aside.

Cut chicken breasts into small 1/2 inch strips. Chop peppers and onion into bite-size chunks.
Heat oil in a wok over high heat. Add garlic and ginger and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chicken pieces to skillet and stir-fry until white, about 3 minutes. Add bell peppers and onion and and stir-fry until vegetables are crisp-tender and chicken is just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Add broth mixture and bring to boil, stirring constantly. Cook until sauce thickens, about 1 minute. Serve with steamed rice.
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12 July, 2010

Sesame Carrots and Green Beans

My wok is one of my favorite kitchen utensils. Because I love stir fries. Because any combination of veggies and/or meat/fish can be put in. Because they are done in no time. Especially now in summer I don't want to watch over slowly cooking pots for ages, not to speak of standing in the heat they radiate. And as much as I love my raw salads, there is a limit to it. Sometimes it just has to be cooked. Fast, light, healthy, vegetarian, or vegan.
This sesame carrots and green beans stir fry has been in my head for quite some time before I actually cooked it for the first time. I wanted it with an Asian flavor to it that tastes well hot and cold. The leftovers are a perfect cold salad with that dressing. It serves very well as a side dish to grilled fish or poultry. I often like to eat it in double or triple portions without anything else, just a huge portion of veggies. Just the right thing for hot summer lunches.


1/2lb green beans, trimmed
1/2lb baby carrots, sliced lengthwise in halves or quarters

1-2 tablespoons white sesame seeds

1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Serves 4
Toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan over medium heat for about 5-7 minutes. Set aside.

Steam carrots and beans for 2-3 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water.

In a small bowl, combine vinegar, soy sauce, honey, salt, pepper with 1/2 tablespoon of sesame oil.

Put a wok on very high heat. Once it's hot, add 1 tablespoon of sesame oil. Stir in the beans and carrots and stir-fry for about 1 minute. Add the seasoning mixture and stir-fry for another 1 minute. Take off the heat. Stir in the toasted sesame seeds. Transfer to serving dish. Serve immediately.
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10 July, 2010

Apple Date Banana Bread

Today is my blog's first birthday. I want to use this occasion to say thank you to all my readers.
This food blogging is quite a time-consuming hobby with all the cooking, photographing, and writing. Looking back, I can definitely say that I my cooking skills have improved. And so has my writing and my photography. My first few posts make me smile now, but I am as proud of them as I am of the lastest ones. They are all part of a learning curve. I am proud of what I achieved in the last year.
You want to know some figures? I posted 166 recipes. I've got 88 email subscribers to my blog (OK, one of them is myself and one is my husband) and close to 50 Facebook fans.I have an average of 7.000 unique visitors to my site per month. I always imagine all these people in my garden. That picture makes me proud too.Wouldn't that be a great idea? All people who come to my website could come past my garden and I could serve them a slice/portion/piece of whatever food they were interested in and we could have a little chat. I'd love to do that for a month.

What else could I post on my blog's first birthday than a cake recipe!! Not exactly an anniversary's kind of cake, with layers, frills etc. Rather the good old rustic loaf style. This recipe is a combination of my Banana Date Loaf , my Apple Oatmeal Cake and the Buttermilk Banana Bread. This one takes the best from these three: low fat as a bread, sweetened only with apples, bananas and dates, moist as a cake. Bon appetit!

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 big ripe bananas, mashed
1 egg
1/4 cup buttermilk or yogurt
2 tablespoons canola oil

1 medium apple, cored and thinly sliced
1 cup dried dates, chopped

Yields 1 loaf
 Preheat oven to 160C. Grease or line loaf tin with parchment paper.

In a big bowl, combine flour, oats, baking powder and salt. Mix well.

In another bowl, beat the egg lightly. Then add buttermilk/yogurt, canola oil and mashed bananas. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Stir in chopped apple and dates. Transfer batter to prepared loaf tin. Bake for 60 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Let cool on wire rack.
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07 July, 2010

Crunchy Quinoa Granola

I have never thought of putting raw quinoa into a granola until I read a granola recipe on Food And Whine. What a revelation it was. I basically copied the recipe and just made slight changes (when I didn't have the ingredients ready on hand). The toasted quinoa in the granola is the most amazing thing. It gives a lovely crunch to it. The taste of applesauce gives it a lovely fruity flavor without being overbearing. For the first time, I didn't feel the need to add dried fruit as I didn't want to destroy the flavor of the grains. A perfect combination of various crunches, bites, and flavors. On top of that, it can't get much healthier than this: whole grains, nuts, seeds, low fat altogether. Thanks Megan, for this recipe.
Now that I got into the very small grains in the granola, I might as well try millet the next time. 
I am on holiday in Germany as I am writing this, and my homemade granola box had to stay behind. I'll survive it, I guess, just...... Being in my home country makes up for it.


3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup dry quinoa
1/4 cup flaxseeds
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup chopped almonds

1/2 cup applesauce
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons agave syrup
2 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
Preheat oven to 150C. 

Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well.
In a small bowl stir together all wet ingredients. Pour over the dry ingredients and stir until well coated. Spread the granola on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Turn it over every 10 minutes or so to provide even toasting. Let cool completely. Keep in airtight container.
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04 July, 2010

Summer Purslane Salad

Living in Dubai for the past six years has naturally introduced me to Middle Eastern foods. If there is one thing that I really like about their cuisine, it's their use of green leafy vegetables and herbs. Nowhere else I have seen parsley, cilantro, mint being sold in such huge bulks. And there is still lots for me to learn. I haven't even tried half of the fresh herbs on the supermarket shelf. One of the reasons is that it is sometimes hard to find out what it actually is. The shop assistants would only know the Arab name of it.
However, I found out about purslane. Purslane is actually a weed, but a very nutritious one. It is very high in vitamin A and C and iron. Its taste is something between nutty and lemony,similar to the one of spinach. Apparently it grows very quickly, 3-4 weeks after sowing the seeds you can harvest purslane leaves.
Purslane is a perfect ingredient for summer salads. We are on holiday at Germany's North Sea coast  right now. Fresh fish is available right at our doorstep. The weather is beautiful and we have a BBQ grill in the garden. No doubt I will stuff myself with fresh grilled fish for the next couple of weeks. On such occasions, I don't like to distract from the fish with fancy and filling potato, rice or pasta salads. A simple salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes and purslane just fits the bill. You can't go wrong with something light and fresh in summer. Combined with grilled fish it will be a perfectly healthy and utterly delicious meal.

1 cup cherry tomatoes
2 Lebanese cucumbers
1 cup radishes
1 cup purslane leaves

1 lemon, juice of
3 tablespoons olive oil
pinch of salt

Serves 2-4
Slice the cucumbers and radishes. Pick the leaves from the purslane stems. Cut the cherry tomatoes into quarters. Combine all vegetables in a salad bowl.
Mix all ingredients for the dressing. Pour over the salad and mix.
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01 July, 2010

Goji Power Balls

These balls are so full of goodness, I refuse to call them sweets. They surely satisfy a sweet tooth, but that's just a nice side effect of this otherwise super healthy and nutritious power package.
I am not a big fan of Goji berries eaten just by themselves. There is a funny aftertaste that I don't like. In these balls, however, they taste fantastic. Combined with seeds, nuts, honey, dark chocolate and other dried fruit you'll get a whole variety of crunches and flavors. Depending on your preferences you can omit or add one or the other ingredient.
Goji Berries have a long list of health benefits, like all berries. Goji berries in particular, however, are age-defying due to their unique combination of their minerals and vitamins. In fact, that was the reason why I was trying so hard to find a recipe with Goji berries that I would like.
These ball are a perfect snack for mid-morning munchies, and a great treat after a workout. To me, they served pretty well as after-dinner pralines on the sofa.

3 tablespoons dried Goji berries
3 tablespoons mixed seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, buckwheat, sesame, etc.)
2 tablespoon dried cherries (or other dried fruit of your choice)
3 pitted dried dates, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons almonds
1 teaspoon honey
2 squares of dark chocolate, chopped

dried coconut flakes
cocoa powder

Yields 12-15
Combine all ingredients in a food processor and process until combined and sticky. Form balls of the size of a walnut out of the batter. Roll in cocoa powder or coconut flakes.
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