30 August, 2010

Avocado Cherry Loaf Cake

 
One more week and I'll be in our new house with a BIGGER kitchen that has a MASSIVE stove and plenty of counter space. Ladies and Gentlemen, I'll be cooking up storms!! My house hunting was successful, we'll move just down the road, 3 minutes to walk from where we live now. No time to sit down for even one second: get quotes from relocation companies, clean out cupboards, shelves and closets from anything that does not need to move along and pack the rest. And then there are the other things that are always around: do my regular freelance work, go the embassy to apply for new passports, finally a doctor's appointment to sort out my back (that has been sore since last Christmas), etc.
What do you need for all that? ENERGY!!!! And high-energy food. Something that keeps you going for some time and provides all the nutrients that one needs.
After sufficiently exploring zucchini breads (see my Apple Zucchini Cake with Walnuts, then Chocolate Zucchini Spelt Cake or my Vegan Chocolate Banana Zucchini Bread, I was in need of a new victim. And I found one: avocado! If you can put zucchinis and carrots into cakes, why not avocado? The good thing about avocado is, that its natural richness makes it unnecessary to add any butter or oil. That's all it does. You surely won't taste the avocados. The result: a lovely moist and all natural cake that's good and filling enough for breakfast.
I love colorful cakes, That's why I put red cherries and green pistachios in. The cake will be as good with just raisins and any other nuts, like walnuts or pecans.
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AVOCADO CHERRY LOAF CAKE

1/2 cup mashed avocado (1 avocado)
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup agave syrup

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

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

Yields 1 loaf
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Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Line loaf tin with parchment paper. 

In a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and spices. Keep aside.
In another bowl, beat the egg. Add mashed avocado, buttermilk and agave syrup and stir until combined. Combine dry and wet ingredients until just combined. Stir in cherries and chopped pistachios.

Bake for about 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool in the tin for 10 minutes before taking out. Let cool completely on wire racks.
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28 August, 2010

Bacon Mushroom Quiche

I am not big into star signs and their attributes. I think I stopped reading horoscopes in my teenage years after I realized it will not tell me if the boy of my dreams was also in love with me. I never got the ones that I was in love with. That's for sure.
However, the other day, I had a conversation with someone about star signs. I was told that people of my star sign are good leaders, are good finishers and work well under pressure. That, I think, proved true today.
It's weekend, but my husband had work to do at home for the whole day. So I was in charge of entertaining the kids and provide all meals. Cool! No problem!
A normal day starts like this: my kids don't greet me in the morning with "Good morning mummy, we love you!" Instead I hear "Where is the Porridge? I am hungryyyyyyy!"- Alright, coming in up in minute. After breakfast I took the kids to the swimming pool, in the hope they would exhaust themselves, and at least my 2-year old daughter would have a lunchtime nap. Nope!! After the swimming pool I built train tracks for an hour, during which I was allowed to have breakfast myself. Thanks.
Close to lunchtime I decided to make lunch and dinner at the same time. I thought it would be really cool if I could come up with something nice without having to go the shops. For lunch I was Mexican-inspired when making homemade flat breads filled with chicken, guacamole, sour cream, etc. At the same time I was preparing this quiche for dinner. It has become one of our staples on weekends. I love my savory tarts, and the mushroom bacon combo is by far the most popular filling. I finally managed to take some decent pictures of it (which made this post possible today), before taking the kids to an indoor play and climbing area in the afternoon. Coming back, I just jumped into my running clothes to go to my running group which has a weekly race over either 3.4km or 6.8km. I only rejoined them a few weeks ago, and I am still improving my seasonal best time every week. Another 15 seconds off from last week's seasonal best. Yeah, just what I needed!!!
Kids are sleeping now and we just had that quiche for dinner. It was a good day for everyone. I am happy and content, perhaps a little tired. Is that why, totally thoughtless, I just made myself a full-on wake-up-quickly-in-the-morning coffee instead of the herbal calm-down-and-relax tea that I normally have in the evening?? Never mind. I also just stuffed myself with at least 10 of these little thingies, while writing this.....

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BACON MUSHROOM QUICHE


Crust
1/2 cup rolled oats
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly milled black pepper
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup olive oil

Filling
2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced
4 oz bacon, cubed or sliced
3 garlic cloves

2 eggs
1/4 cup low fat milk
1/2 cup grated cheese
salt and pepper to taste
nutmeg

Serves 4-6
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Preheat oven to 200C.

Crust
Spread the oats and sesame seeds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 8 minutes. Transfer the toasted oats and sesame seeds to a bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper, and process until the oats are finely ground.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the water and oil. Mix in the dry ingredients to form a dough. Knead the dough a couple of times on a floured surface, then form it into a thick disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface. Put the dough in the tart pan. Press it  down evenly, making sure to fill in the fluted sides of the pan. Trim the tart of any excess dough. Prick the base and sides of the crust all over with a fork to prevent bubbles. Pre-bake for about  10 minutes. Set aside.

Filling
Heat a pan over medium heat and add the bacon. Stir occasionally. Once it releases the fat, add crushed garlic. Stir occasionally. Cook until bacon starts to become crisp. Add the sliced mushrooms. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook for about 3 minutes. The mushrooms should retain a little bite. Take off the heat and set aside.

Whisk together the eggs with the milk. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg.

Preheat oven to 180C. 

Pour the bacon mushroom mixture into the tart shell. Pour over the egg milk mixture. Sprinkle grated cheese onto the top and bake for 25  minutes, until egg mixture has set. Let stand for another 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
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25 August, 2010

Fennel Salad with Apples and Oranges

I always liked to have a fruity touch in my veggie salads. Unfortunately, no-one else in my family shares this passion. On the other hand, good: more of these salads for me. This fennel salad is more a fruit than a veggie salad as its sweetish licorice flavor fits more into the fruity corner than the tart section which is reserved to a big number of veggies.
Now here we go: raw, crunchy and refreshing fennel, oranges and apples are combined and dressed with an amazing sour cream dressing. I prefer this salad cold rather than room temperature. But that's probably a matter of taste, and has also to do with the scorching heat that we still have to endure here in Dubai.
It can be made in advance and keeps well. Make it in the morning and take it to work for lunch or afternoon snack: simple, no-fuss, healthy, yummy.
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FENNEL SALAD WITH APPLES AND ORANGES

2 fennel bulbs
1 red apple
1 orange
4 tablespoons sliced almonds

Dressing
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon canola oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey
salt and pepper to taste

Serves 4
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Trim fennel bulbs off the root and remove outer skin if too thick or browned. Thinly slice fennel bulbs and stems. Keep the fronds aside for later.
Cut apple into quarters. Core, then dice apple pieces. Peel orange and dice. Combine fennel slices, apples and oranges in salad bowl.
Combine all ingredients for the dressing. Pour over salad and toss. Garnish with fennel fronds and sliced almonds.
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22 August, 2010

Bean Lentil Spinach Soup

Our summer here in Dubai is still hot as hell. But one cannot live from cooling lettuce leaves and cucumbers alone for several months in a row. In the middle of the summer heat, I felt like cooking some hearty bean soup. I found the recipe for this soup in a supermarket supplement. The colors of this soup were immediately intriguing. I have a weakness for food with vibrant contrasting colors. In addition, this soup is cooked in less than half an hour. Good for any weeknight.

To make it even better, this soup is one big bowl full of goodness: It is vegan. The health benefits of lentils and beans are widely known: low GI, low in calories, heart-healthy, lots of fiber. Spinach, like all green leafy vegetables, is full of antioxidants, rich in vitamin C, potassium and iron and contains lots of fiber too. The lentils, once cooked,  give the soup a natural thickness. I love the spice mix in this soup too: a whole mix of anti inflammatory and anti oxidant properties come with the turmeric, cinnamon and cumin.

It's worth making this soup in huge batches, as it gets better when leftovers of the soup are reheated the next day. Enjoy!
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BEAN LENTIL SPINACH SOUP


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups cooked red kidney beans
1/2 cup red lentils
4 cups vegetable stock or water

1 lemon, juice of
1 teaspoon dried mint
2 cups fresh spinach, finely chopped

Serves 4
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Heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute onions, garlic and spices until onions are soft. Stir in the beans, lentils, lemon juice, mint. Then add vegetable stock. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, until lentils are tender. Stir occasionally. Stir in spinach and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Ready to serve.

Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons 
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19 August, 2010

Coconut Pistachio Truffles

By nature, men are hunters and women gatherers, right? Well, we swapped jobs. Although, to my knowledge, my husband doesn't gather much at the moment. Good so because I am hunting. Houses. We want to move to a bigger place since prices have dropped by about 50% here in Dubai since the economic crisis that started two years ago.
House hunting is a full-time job: checking property ads, speaking to estate agents, seeing houses, negotiating prices and conditions. Quite a hectic life compared to my otherwise well-organized days as a gatherer (e.g. foods in the supermarket, dirty clothes from various rooms, kids toys when tidying up the house in the evening). So hectic that I sometimes don't find time to eat. Hunger comes when I relax in the evening on the sofa, in form of sugar cravings. In fact, truffle cravings.
To me, dates, coconut and pistachio kernels are three of the most commonly used and popular ingredients here in the Middle East. I love each single one of them. Combine them raw and there you are: it doesn't need more to get some tasty truffles that fulfill any sugar cravings. They are vegan, they are raw, they are quick and easy to make. After dinner sugar cravings don't have to be a bad thing with these!!

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COCONUT PISTACHIO TRUFFLES


1/2 cup dried dates, or Medjool dates
1/4 cup pistachio kernels
1/4 cup desiccated coconut
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Coating
desiccated coconut
chopped or ground pistachios

Yields ca. 20-25
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If the dried dates are too dry and hard, soften them by pouring boiling water over them and soak for 10-15 minutes. Drain excess water.
Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Blend until ingredients stick together. Add more coconut oil if the batter doesn't hold together. Form balls of the size of a cherry or walnut. Roll each one in your preferred coating. Keep in mini paper muffin liners. Store in airtight container at room temperature.
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17 August, 2010

Almond Date Spirals

My baking alarm bells always ring whenever I see a recipe that uses dates. It often gives me ideas for yet another sugar free dessert. The recipe for the filling of these spirals I found in the supermarket supplement paper. The original recipe asked for cream instead of milk in the filling and it was supposed to be wrapped in filo pastry. Instead I wrapped it all up in a dough made of  whole wheat flour.
These little things came out absolutely delicious. Just one thing I wasn't sure about when I pulled them out of the oven: are they cookies, or little pastries or little tarts? I don't know. And you know what: I actually don't care. What's in a name anyway?! Here are the facts: They are sweet, they are tasty and they are full of good things. That's all that counts.
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ALMOND DATE SPIRALS


1/3 cup dried dates, pitted and chopped
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup milk
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1/3 to 1/2 cup buttermilk

Yields ca. 12
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Combine dates, almonds, milk and spices in a small pot. Cook over medium heat until it becomes a rough paste. Stir occasionally.  Set aside to cool.

I an bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Rub the butter into the flour mixture until it becomes crumbly. Combine agave syrup with 1/3 cup buttermilk. Combine wet ingredients with dry ingredients. Knead the dough for a few minutes until smooth. If the dough does not stick together, add more buttermilk.
On a lightly floured surface, pat the dough flat and roll into a 20x30cm (8x12inches) rectangle. Spread the date almond paste evenly onto the dough. With the long side of the rectangle in front of you, start rolling up the dough. When you reach the other end, press the dough gently onto the roll. Wrap the log in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200C (390F). Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Remove the plastic wrap, and cut log into 1/2 inch slices. Place the slices on prepared baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until edges are just beginning to brown. Let cool on wire racks.
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14 August, 2010

Iced Cucumber Yogurt Soup

It's summer in most part of the world. A few of you will know that the summer in Dubai is extreme, in both temperatures and length. We have some 40+ degrees Celsius (105F) during the day, and never less than 30C (85F) at night for 4-5 months in a row. It's tough, but I try and comfort myself with the thought that our summers here are pretty much like long, ugly winters in Europe: you stay inside for most of the day. These days, if we go outside, it will be straight into the swimming pool. Or otherwise straight into the air-conditioned car on the  way to an air-conditioned shopping mall.
At times, it is tough to entertain the kids. They get bored inside, in spite of millions of puzzles, games, art & crafts projects. And I get tired of sitting in the knee-deep baby swimming pool for half the day.

With that heat outside, I prefer simple no-cook and no-bake dishes these days, be it salads or soups. Bigger meals, perhaps with meat, would sit in my stomach like a brick. Not so this cucumber soup. With ingredients that you most probably have at home, it is whipped up in no time. It's light and tasty, just what one needs in this scorching heat. 
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ICED CUCUMBER YOGURT SOUP

4  cucumbers (about 15-20cm/5-6inches long)
1 generous pinch ground ginger
salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup vegetable stock
1 cup low fat plain yogurt

4 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons olive oil
dried chili flakes

Serves 4
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Cut the cucumbers into quarters lengthwise and remove the seeds. Chop roughly, then puree with a food processor. Season with ginger, salt and pepper. Put in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes, or until cucumbers just start to freeze.

Roast the pumpkin seeds in a dry pan over medium heat for 5-8 minutes. Set aside.
Combine vegetable stock with yogurt.

Take the cucumbers out of the freezer. Fold in the yogurt veggie stock mixture. Transfer to serving plates. Garnish with olive oil, pumpkin seeds and dried chili flakes. Serve immediately.
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11 August, 2010

Pistachio Date Short Breads

 
Today is the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan. I am not a Muslim, but living in Dubai, it has an effect on everyone. It is not allowed to eat or drink in public from sunrise to sunset, all restaurants are closed during the day. No music blaring in the shopping malls. Working hours are shortened. It is a very subdued and quiet month.
Toward sunset, people gather at the mosques where food is given out to the poorer people. Traditionally, the fast is broken with fresh dates and some water or milk. I thought I take this occasion and bake some date sweetened cookies for my family. I love to bake with dates, no  additional sugar is needed as they are sweet enough. Dates have a lovely tangy flavor. Pistachios are very popular in Middle Eastern and Arab cuisine too. Both combined in these short breads make a lovely natural cookie. A successful attempt to transform traditional local ingredients into a healthy treat.

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PISTACHIO DATE SHORT BREADS


1/4 finely chopped pistachios
1/2 cup dried dates (ca. 10-12 dates), depitted and roughly chopped

1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg

3/4 cup whole wheat flour

Yields 15-20 cookies
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In a food processor, combine butter and dried dates until it becomes a creamy paste. Add egg and vanilla extract. Beat until incorporated. Add the flour and still until it becomes a smooth batter. Stir in half of the chopped pistachios. Form a round log with a diameter of about 1 1/2 to 2 inches. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Keep in the fridge for an hour.

Preheat oven to 180C (350F). Lay out baking sheet with parchment paper.
Take the log out of the fridge and unwrap. Roll the log in the remaining pistachios. Cut 1/4-1/2 inch pieces off the log. If necessary, roll each cookie again in pistachios, then transfer to baking sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until edges are just beginning to brown. Let cool on wire racks.
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08 August, 2010

Vegan Chocolate Banana Zucchini Bread

Am I crazy about zucchini breads or what? Ever since I started baking them (which is only a few weeks back), I can't stop thinking what to put in next and how to improve them.
I think this will be my last zucchini bread post for this season, and I made some significant changes to my other zucchini breads (check here for my Apple Zucchini Cake with Walnuts and my Chocolate Zucchini Spelt Cake).
First of all, this one is vegan. For quite some time I wanted to see, what a flax seed and water mixture does to a cake in order to replace eggs. It definitely needs more experimenting, but in this cake it works well. I must admit, it was a safe try for this substitution with all the mashed bananas on the ingredients list. Bananas are a good egg substitute too, when it comes to cake baking.
However, the bananas are helping out on another side as well: I tried to substitute the amount of sugar/agave syrup from my other zucchini bread recipes with mashed bananas. What else can I say than that I can't stop eating this cake? In fact, I had to stock up on milk (which I normally don't drink in such copious amounts) to go with a slice or two of this cake. It's yummy, it's moist, it's chocolate, and it's healthy, it's so full of good things to be any main meal of the day.

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VEGAN CHOCOLATE BANANA ZUCCHINI BREAD

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
6 tablespoons warm water

1/3 cup agave syrup
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup mashed bananas (2 large bananas)
1 cup zucchini, grated

Yields 1 loaf
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 Preheat oven to 180C. Grease or line loaf tin with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine ground flax seeds with warm water. Let stand until it becomes like gel, about 10 minutes. I fit doesn't, pour the mixture into a small pot and let simmer for a couple of minutes.

Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. Set aside.

When flax seed water mixture has combined, whisk in agave  syrup, olive oil and mashed bananas. Combine dry ingredients with wet ingredients. Stir in the grated zucchinis.

Pour batter into prepared loaf tin. Bake for about 45 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. Let cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Then take out and let cool completely on rack.
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05 August, 2010

Summer Light Potato Salad

I haven't been a big fan of potato salads for most of my life. I always found them drenched too much in mayonnaise, or the potatoes overcooked, or the whole salad too bland... you know what I mean.
I just spent a whole month in my home country Germany, which is known as potato country. Potatoes accompany any simple fare meal, like rice does in Asia. Either in form of dumplings; boiled potatoes, fried potatoes, potato salads. Being at home wet my appetite for potato dishes. Now here is my version of a potato salad: new potatoes with peel, some home-cooked legumes, fresh cherry tomatoes and some green leaves held together by a light yogurt-based dressing.
The dressing is based on the ingredients of classic mayonnaise, only the oil and eggs are being replaced by yogurt. The mustard in the dressing provides a lovely zing. You can surely play around with the amounts of yogurt, mustard and lemon juice. I found the amounts mentioned below ideal.
This light potato salad will be perfect for any BBQ or a light carb-loaded lunch. In fact, I had it yesterday after a workout on the treadmill.
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SUMMER LIGHT POTATO SALAD


4 cups new potatoes
1 cup cooked chickpeas ( I recommend home-cooked ones)
1 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 cup purslane leaves (or other green leaves, e.g. arugula or baby spinach), loosely packed

Dressing
3 tablespoons yogurt
1 tablespoon mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Serves 4
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Wash and scrub the potatoes, then cut into quarters. Cook in slightly salted boiling water until soft, about 10 minutes. Check regularly, as you don't want the potatoes to fall apart. Drain and let cool.
Cut potatoes into smaller pieces (if necessary), they should have bite size.

In a small bowl, Combine all ingredients of the dressing. 

In a large bowl, combine potato pieces, chickpeas, tomato pieces and purslane (or other green of your choice). Add dressing and toss until well coated. Serve cold or at room temperature.
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01 August, 2010

Apple Zucchini Cake with Walnuts

I just googled the origin of zucchini bread and it seems to be an American invention. Now all American readers of this will yawn, but I still can't hide my excitement about the fact, that zucchinis in breads and cakes are absolutely delicious. Although I posted a zucchini bread recipe a few days ago, I experimented some more and created this utterly and amazingly moist and yummy apple zucchini cake. I convinced not only my German parents (who have never had veggies in their cake apart from the other zucchini bread that I baked ) but also my 80 something year old grandparents of this amazing and healthy cake.
You will not detect the taste of zucchini at all, instead you will think this is a tasty apple cake with crunchy walnuts and a hint of cinnamon. Zucchinis have a high content of water (similar to cucumbers), thereofre are low in calories. They are rich in vitamins A and C and folate and fibre. What else would you want in a cake that is even good enough to impress your grandparents!!!! One thing is for sure: I will bake zucchini breads very often for the rest of my life.

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APPLE ZUCCHINI CAKE WITH WALNUTS

1 1/2 cups whole wheat or spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3/4 cup grated apples (with peel)
3/4 cup grated zucchini (with peel)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

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

Yields 1 loaf
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Preheat oven to 180C. Grease loaf tin or line with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking poweder and cinnamon.

Ina another bowl, beat the eggs, Whisk in the agave syrup and oilive oil. Combine wet ingredients with dry ingredients. Stir in grated apples, zucchini and chopped walnuts. Pour batter into prepared loaf tin. Bake for 45 minutes. Let cool on wire rack.
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