29 October, 2010

Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal Cake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For the topping, combine oats, cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl. Rub in butter with your finger tips until mixture becomes crumbly. 
Pour cake batter into prepared loaf tin. Sprinkle with topping . Bake for 45-50 minutes or until toothpick come out clean. Let cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
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27 October, 2010

Cauliflower with Mustard Seeds

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

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

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

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


3 cups cauliflower florets (1 medium cauliflower)

2 tablespoons coconut oil 

2 teaspoons black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seed

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

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

1 tablespoon lemon juice, or to taste 

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

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

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

Add lemon juice and season with salt to taste. Garnish with remaining cilantro/parsley. Serve immediately.
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23 October, 2010

Quinoa Coconut Porridge

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

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

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

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

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

2 tablespoons pistachios, chopped and toasted
2 tablespoons coconut flakes

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

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

Honey Roasted Moroccan Spice Cashews

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have a new favorite treat. Homemade spicy honey-roasted cashews. DELICIOUS!!!!
I actually wanted to make spicy-roasted chickpeas. I have never made them at home before. I have seen the recipes on many food blogs, so it couldn't be so difficult to make. I thought. Well, the chickpeas turned out horrible. Not so much the taste, but the texture of those chickpeas was something between wet cardboard and rubber. Not edible.
So there I was with  a jar full of this delicious Moroccan spice mix. I upped the cinnamon a little and decided to combine it with honey and make sweet and spicy roasted nuts with it. A full success. Just the right combination of nuttiness, sweetness and spiciness. The spices include cumin and cinnamon which are supported by some extra hotness from ground chili. I can't stop eating them. I've got a bowl of them on my desk right now, another container is kept in my handbag so I can have them on the go.

2 cups unsalted cashew nuts

2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons Moroccan spice mix*

2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt

Moroccan Spice Mix
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground chili
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Preheat oven to 160C (325F).

Toast the cashew nuts on a baking sheet for about 8 minutes. Take out and let cool a little.

In a small pot, combine honey and spice mix and heat gently. Stir to combine. Take off the heat. Place cashews in a bowl. Pour the honey spice mixture over them and toss until all nuts are well coated. Place the nuts on the baking sheet in one layer. Bake for 30 minutes. Stir the mixture every 10 minutes to provide even roasting. Take out of the oven and let cool for 2-3 minutes.
Combine sugar and salt and sprinkle over the cashews. Toss to coat evenly. Ready to eat.
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16 October, 2010

Parmesan Bulgur Salad

I assume all food bloggers are constantly on the search for new and tasty foods. Quite a few of them concentrate on healthy foods. A certain percentage would focus on either vegetarian, vegan, raw, gluten-free, sugar-free or fat-free foods. I find interesting approaches to foods on all these blogs and websites, leaving the ethical perspective out at this point. However, none of these ways of eating would work for me exclusively in the long run.

I am not a nutritionist, I still have to learn a lot about the health benefits of foods: vitamins, minerals, glycemic indexes, natural foods, food allergies and intolerances, etc. My approach to food is a combination of reading about nutrition and listening to my body. I am slowly coming to the conclusion that a low glycemic diet is my way to go: Foods that keep the blood sugar levels even, foods that avoid quick highs and lows.

My believe is that once you master a low glycemic diet (which should include lots of vegan, vegetarian, natural, raw and sugar free), you don't have to worry about calories anymore. Your body will take in just as much as it needs. No more. Period.
I don't have to loose weight, far from it. It had been a mystery to me for a long time, that I could eat "whatever I wanted" without having to worry about my weight, when other people seemed to "eat hardly anything" and were very concerned about putting on weight. I truly believe it is all about the composition.

Now here is one of my current favorite lunch salads: whole grains tossed in melted butter and Parmesan cheese, combined with some raw veggies; light yet filling, refreshing,  full of of vitamins and with a low GI, as it uses a grain with one of the lowest GIs: bulgur or cracked wheat. This salad will surely get you through the afternoon. In fact, I love to eat this after my marathon training sessions when I need to stock up on carbohydrates. Complex ones work best, as they release their energy slowly and  my torn muscles can recover quickly and will be ready in time for the next training session which will be 24 to 48 hours later. The marathon that I am training for is only in January. But already now I can say that the right nutrition is a main key to get you through the training. Whatever makes you run a marathon (hopefully), can't be bad in life, can it? Well, we will see in January, after the marathon.

1 cup of coarse Bulgur
3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon butter
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup cucumber, chopped
1 cup arugula leaves, roughly chopped
4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Serves 2
Cook the coarse Bulgur in 1 1/2 cups of salted water. Bring to boil, then simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain excess water.
In the meantime, chop the cucumbers, tomatoes, and arugula.
Transfer the warm Bulgur to a serving bowl. Stir in the butter. Then toss in arugula, tomatoes and cucumber. Sprinkle generously with grated Parmesan. Ready to serve.

Whole Grains Every Day, Every Way
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14 October, 2010

Pistachio Ginger Cookies

During the summer, I haven't baked much cookies. But all of the sudden, it is October and for the first time in my life I am already thinking of Christmas. I used to hate it, when Christmas sweets were available in the shops from end September on, as it seemed so far away. Suddenly I don't. I think I am getting old.
Anyway, autumn and winter have become cookie times. These pistachio cookies were the first ones that I baked after the summer. In fact, I have done them several times. The pistachio flavor complements beautifully with the caramel-like flavor of the palm sugar and the hint of ginger just makes me look forward to Christmas even more. I baked several batches because they were always gone, before I could make some pictures. And then I couldn't get the pictures pretty. Another reason to bake some more. My husband's comment on them actually sums it up: those ugly green little things in the cookie container are really tasty........

2/3 cups shelled unsalted pistachios + more for decoration
1/3 cup palm sugar or Jaggery, roughly chopped when available in blocks 
3 tablespoons whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Yields ca. 12-15 
 Pulse pistachios, ginger and sugar together in a food processor until nuts are finely chopped (but not ground), then stir together with remaining ingredients in a bowl. Knead until dough holds together. If it's too crumbly too hold, add a few drops of water. Form a log (ca. 2 inch diameter) and wrap tightly in plastic. Refrigerate for one hour.

Preheat oven to 160C (325F). Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Remove plastic from the log. Cut slices off the log, each one about 5mm or 1/4inch thick. Place each slice on the baking sheet and garnish with one whole pistachio by pressing it gently into the cookie dough.

Bake for about 8-10 minutes or until slightly golden. Let cool completely on wire racks. Keep in airtight container.
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11 October, 2010

Pumpkin Raisin Bread

Autumn means pumpkin time. As the world (so it seems) prepares for Halloween, you cannot avoid pumpkins and pumpkin shaped items wherever you go. Me, being a German, don't really have much experience with Halloween and pumpkins. Halloween was basically non-existent, when I was a kid in Germany. I also don't recall pumpkin being a regular food during the fall months.
However, things are different now. We live in Dubai, probably still not a major region where Halloween is being celebrated. But with a huge expat community out here, ones gets to know all sorts of celebrations and holidays, the American ones, the Chinese ones,  the Indian ones.
My two kids are totally crazy about Halloween. Their costumes for this year's trick or treating are ready. And they do love pumpkin. Not the steamed variety on their dinner plates (it's probably asked too much from their health-conscious mother), but "hidden" in cakes and soups.
In my search for a nice pumpkin bread recipe, I found many using canned (and sometimes fresh) pureed pumpkin. Firstly, I have never seen canned pumpkin in any shop in Dubai or Germany. I must admit, the thought of canned pureed pumpkin doesn't appeal to me at all. Pumpkin is such a cool ingredient. It cooks in no time, it has such a fresh and vibrant color. Why use it from the can in which it has been for months? It was probably cooked to death before being put in a can. And then I ask myself, why wait for fall to bake a cake with canned pumpkin that has a shelf life of several years? I don't get it.
Now here is the style of pumpkin bread that I like: as pumpkin has a similar texture as carrots, I simply use it as I would do in carrot cakes: raw and grated. That is all there is to say. It makes a lovely color, I loved the  sweetness coming from a combination of dried dates, pumpkin and raisins. A healthy bread or cake, good for at any time of the day; breakfast snack or tea.

(Print Recipe)

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

3/4 cup dried dates (about 15), pitted and chopped
3/4 cup yogurt
1 egg
1/4 cup canola oil

3/4 cup grated fresh pumpkin ( I used butternut squash)
1/4 cup raisins

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

Combine dates and yogurt in a food processor and blend until the dates they have become a paste. Add the egg and the oil and pulse a few more times to incorporate. Set aside.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Pour wet ingredients onto dry ingredients and stir until just combined. gently fold in the grated pumpkin and raisins.

Transfer batter to prepared loaf tin. Bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
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08 October, 2010

Lentil Tomato Salad with Halloumi

Do you know Halloumi cheese? I actually have no idea how easily available this particular cheese is around the world.  I know that it is hard to get in the German countryside's supermarkets.
It is a white cheese, salty in taste, lower in fat than regular cheeses. Its origins is in Greece and Cyprus, and it is originally made from a mixture of goat's and sheep milk, but can also contain cow's milk. What makes it stand out from all other cheeses: you can grill it without having it melt.
It makes a great contribution to any kind of salad, either warm straight from the oven, or cold.
This recipe of a Lentil Tomato Salad with Halloumi is another one that I picked up from BBC GoodFood. They really have fantastic recipes, and being the recipe from the UK should tell us that Halloumi is widely available in the UK, at least.
The recipe name got me salivating immediately, as it combines all favorite foods of mine: lentils, tomatoes, and Halloumi, of course.  At the same time this salad is healthy, can be made in advance, keeps well in the fridge for a day and is absolutely delicious. I had this one for several days in a row at all possible temperatures from warm till straight fromt he fridge and can confirm that it is always tasty. Give it a try and I dare say: I cannot imagine that someone will not like this. Bon Appetit!

(adapted from BBC GoodFood)

250g ( 10oz) cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1/2 red onion, finely sliced
1/2 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 lemon, juice of
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup Puy lentils
250g (10oz) halloumi cheese
1 handful basil or cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

Serves 2-4

Toss the tomatoes, red onion, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil in a bowl. In slightly salted water, cook the Puy lentils until just tender.  Drain and add to the salad. Season well and toss.
Cut the halloumi into thick slices (about 1/4 to 1/2 inch). Grill until golden, then turn slices  and grill until other side starts to brown too. Chop into chunks and add to the salad. Stir the cilantro or basil through the lentils. Serve immediately.
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05 October, 2010

Chocolate Cherry Muffins

It is no secret that I love the combination of chocolate and cherries. I already posted two recipes with this flavor combination here on my blog (Cocoa Cherry Granola and Coconut Cherry Cocoa Balls). I am still owing you the recipe of my favorite childhood cake which also features these main ingredients.
Today I am sharing my first successful chocolate muffin recipe. I don't really have an explanation why, until now, my chocolate muffins were always a disaster. I consider myself not a novice when it comes to muffin baking skills (just look at my muffin list). However, chocolate muffins did never come right.
The good news is the spell is over. I am not able to pinpoint what I did differently this time. In fact, I don't care, and so does my family as long as they have yummy muffins on their plates.
These muffins had a deep chocolate flavor, were moist and sweet at the same time, and the dried cherries, adding some refreshing tartness, were literally the cherry on the cake.
My children never used to like my muffins. Just recently they started having them for breakfast. Therefore, I tried to include more natural sweetness, while at the same time cut down on concentrated sweeteners. I used to use agave syrup a lot. After some research I am refraining from it more and more, as it is by far not as healthy as I used to think. Please check here, if you want to read an interesting article about agave nectar.
I am specifically proud of the date yogurt sweetening method that, firstly, provides natural sweetness to the muffins, and, secondly, keeps them moist and fluffy. I already bought a new package of dried cherries to make a new batch.
Now, that even my children finally eat my muffins, I have to consider baking bigger batches. Instead of just having my husband eating them, it's suddenly the four of us. These muffins are even good enough to satisfy chocolate cravings after dinner..... that would be me my preferred time to eat muffins.....


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

1 egg, lightly beaten

4 tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons canola oil

1/2 cup dried dates (about 10-12 dried dates), pitted and chopped

1/4 cup yogurt 
1/4 cup dried cherries

Yields 6
Preheat oven to 180C. Line or grease muffin tin.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

In a food processor, blend chopped dates and yogurt to a creamy paste. In another bowl, combine egg, honey and oil. Stir into the date yogurt paste. Add wet to dry ingredients and stir until just combined. Fold in dried cherries.

Fill batter into the muffin molds. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
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03 October, 2010

Fava Bean and Arugula Salad with Parmesan

I will never get tired of salads. Does anyone relate to that? I just love them for lunch or as light dinner that is put together in no time.
A couple of months ago I picked up an edition of the BBC Easy Cook magazine, that was promising lots of simple summer salads on their front page. They did not fail to deliver. Here is one of them (with just slight changes from my side):
Fava Beans with Arugula and Parmesan. Imagine deliciously sweet Fava beans meeting bitter arugula and salty Parmesan rounded up with some olive oil and lemon juice. It will get you to taste heaven. I promise.
I fell in love with this one immediately. In fact, it has become one of my favorite post-marathon training meals, as Fava beans have a pretty high Glycemic Index (which means that sugars will be available quickly to help restore my torn muscles). But Fava beans are just one part of the salad. After long runs of more than an hour my stomach is quite sensitive. Although I feel hungry, heavy foods would just leave me with stomach cramps. This salad has beans in it, but it is still very light. It contains raw and light celery sticks, some green leaves and Parmesan. Just the right combination to fill a “wannabe marathoner’s” tummy without upsetting it.

adapted (with slight changes) from BBC GoodFood

2 cups fresh or frozen Fava (broad) beans
5 small celery sticks
2 cups arugula leaves, loosely packed and roughly chopped
1/4 cup mint leaves, loosely packed and roughly chopped

4 tablespoons olive oil
1 lemon, juice of 
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shaved or grated

Serves 4
Cook the fava beans in boiling salted water for 1-2 minutes. Drain and rinse. When they are cool enough to handle, pop them out of their shells.  Set aside.
Cut the celery into match sticks about 1 inch long.
In a large serving bowl, combine celery, arugula, mint leaves, and cooked and shelled beans.

In a small bowl, combine olive oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Whisk until the mixture begins to thicken. Pour dressing over the salad and toss. Garnish with shaved Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.
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