31 December, 2011

My Favorites of 2011

Wishing you all a very happy New Year. May all your wishes and dreams come true.
I usually don't give much attention to New Year's Eve and New Year. To me, life goes on where tomorrow is yet another day.
Nevertheless, I went through my archive and pulled my 10 most favorite recipes. Recipes that have become staples in our house. Recipes that I consider healthy, delicious with ingredients that excite me and that shall contribute to a better health and well-being. If I had a wish for 2012, I'd wish for everyone to gain as much knowledge about the connection between nutrition and health and live accordingly. I think it would make the world a better place.


Chocolate Walnut Crispy Cookies: 2011 was the year of discovering gluten free flours. My favorites have been chickpea flour and buckwheat flour. These cookies were my first successful attempt at using chickpea flour in a dessert recipe. If you like chocolate, nuts and crispy cookies, these are for you.



Gluten Free Orange Date Bread: My favorite flavor combination of this year is oranges and dates. A match made in heaven with the side effect, that no added sugar is needed. This cake is not only sugar free, but also gluten free by using almond meal and buckwheat flour. A staple in our house.




Hearty Vegetable Soup: winter comes and soups are needed. Spiced with cumin, fennel and chili and paprika, this stew is cooked in less than 45 minutes. I love the addition of red lentils to make thicken the soup. Serves well as fridge cleaner.






Orange Date Paleo Granola: Yet another orange date recipe. This is my attempt at going grain free for breakfast. It has become my very own granola, that I look forward to every single day. Finding my paleo granola jar empty in the morning, can spoil my day.







Pumpkin Spinach Frittata: if there was one-re-discovery of an ingredient in my kitchen, it would be eggs. Always good for a quick and delicious meal, I got to love my fritters, frittatas and omelettes.





Rosewater Scented Pistachio Cake: combining typical Middle Eastern flavors like rosewater and pistachios in this cake, I made this cake to impress at the first Dubai food blogger picnic. It's so good, I made a double-layer cake out of this for my husband's birthday.




Seaweed Sesame Crackers: Seaweed is crazily healthy. After experimenting with all sorts of cracker recipes this year, I finally threw them together. Another staple in our house, that the whole family enjoys.








Spicy Cocktail Almonds: I don't think there was one single day in 2011, where I didn't have nuts. Either raw, or as a trail mix, flavored with spicy or sweet spices,





Vietnamese Chicken Salad: I can hardly find words to describe the flavor and texture profile of this salad: chicken, carrots, mint, peanuts with the most amazing ginger soy dressing. I cannot imagine that someone would not love this.








Yogurt Date Tart: A flourless, gluten-free  and raw crust and a no bake filling made from yogurt, orange zest and honey. Sounds too healthy to be good? Think again. Very deliciuous.



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27 December, 2011

Coffee Truffles

Christmas is just over and she is pestering us with yet another truffle recipe. Of which we have seen about 187 versions in the last two weeks. Wasn't her blog to be about healthy foods? Anja has totally lost it, you may think.
Rest assured, all is as it used to be (or so I think). These little dessert balls are just looking too good to be called HEALTHY ENERGY BALLS. Because this is what they actually are. I was just feeling in truffle mood, when preparing them for the photo.

However, the Christmas season usually coincides with the toughest weeks of marathon training when preparing for the Dubai Marathon. Two days before Christmas I ran a 34k run, and another 35+k run is planned for this week.

It may sound a little condescending, but if you do these kind of runs over the Christmas period, it doesn't really matter if you eat truffles or energy balls. You need energy. And this is what they give: both the regular Christmas truffles and these little energy balls.

I'd still favor my balls, as their ingredients are healthier. They keep you full for longer with the fat amount coming from the nuts and coconut oil. Something that is important to me: I don't want to feel hungry whilst on a long run. On last week's 34k run  I had two generous handfuls of a mix of almonds, cashews and raisins before I went off. It was all I needed to get me through a 3 1/2 hour run.

But even if you don't train for a marathon (and I bet 99,9% of you don't), I highly recommend the truffles for dessert, on the sofa, while reading a book, while watching a movie. I promise you do not have to feel guilty. And if you have any food-related New Year resolutions, these coffee truffles can surely stay on the menu.
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COFFEE TRUFFLES


1/2 cup/100g almonds
1/2 cup/80g pistachios
1/2 cup/80g cashew nuts

1/2 cup/100g Medjool dates, pitted

1/3 cup desiccated coconut
2 teaspoons instant coffee
2 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Coating
desiccated coconut
ground pistachios
ground almonds
cocoa powder

Yields 45
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Soak the nuts in water for about an hour. Drain.
In a food processor, combine all ingredients and blend to a thick paste. If the mixture doesn't stick together when trying to roll a ball, add a teaspoon of water and blend again.
Take about a teaspoon of the paste and roll into balls. Coat with either desiccated coconut, ground pistachios or almonds or cocoa powder. Repeat until all of the mixture is used up. Keep in the fridge or freezer. Take out 5-10 minutes before serving.
Continue Reading>>

21 December, 2011

Gluten Free Christmas Cake

A couple of weeks ago, I was a stressing out that Christmas was so close, and nothing had been prepared. Now, with just three days ago, I can assure you that it took us very little time to get everything ready.

The Christmas tree is up since last weekend. Husband and I went out on 2 or 3 days to buy presents. Instead of a turkey, I bought a big chicken for Christmas lunch, as it is only the four of us and a couple of friends. I downloaded a nice selection of Christmas songs: the classics sung by Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, Elvis Presley, Boney M. Not some choir that puts you to sleep while listening to it.

I baked several batches of last year's tested and approved Christmas cookies. I even baked a few Christmas cakes. No concoctions of my own this year, but other blogger's Christmas cakes. I already shared my Gingerbread Bundt Cake with you, which is so good that I brought it as a gift when we were at friends for dinner.

Now here the other cake. I promise, I have only been baking these two cakes, because they are so good. This one is gluten free, with just a little bit of added sugar as the deep dark flavors of the added dried fruit do all the talking in this cake.

The ingredients list of this cake is long, but it looks more complicated than it actually is. Only a few days to go until Christmas. Not much time for experiments. This cake will not fail you. Easy to make and the kind of cake that everyone enjoys over the festive season.

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GLUTEN FREE CHRISTMAS CAKE


3/4 cup prunes, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
50ml brandy or orange juice

1/2 cup almond meal
3/4 cup  buckwheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg 
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup (120g) butter, at room temperature
1/3 cup palm sugar
3 eggs
1 orange, peel of
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
 1 small apple with peel, coarsely grated

Yields 1 cake
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Place the chopped fruit in a shallow bowl and pour over the brandy or orange juice. Leave to soak for at least three hours. If you want a strong brandy flavor, it is advisable to leave them soaked overnight. Stir occasionally.
 
Preheat oven to 160C/320F. Grease 20cm/8inch cake tin or bundt cake tin.
In a large bowl, sift together buckwheat flour and almond meal, salt, baking powder and spices. Set aside.
Cream butter and sugar. Lightly whisk the eggs. Combine all in one bowl and stir in orange peel, soaked dried fruit, grated apple and vanilla extract.
 
Combine wet and dry ingredients.

Pour batter into prepared cake tin, level the surface. Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until cake tester comes out clean. Let cool a little before taking it out of the tin. Best eaten warm.
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17 December, 2011

Pesto Rice with Feta

I feel slightly hesitant to post this recipe as a recipe, because it's so simple: brown rice with pesto, arugula leaves and a sprinkle of crumbled feta and toasted seeds. It's my current favorite carb-loading meal before I go for my long runs as part of my marathon training. It's my savory equivalent to my Traditional Oat Porridge. I did a 30k run/3 hour run on a bowl of this pesto rice a few days back. It worked well, at least for 2 1/2 hours. After that, you are allowed to have tired legs or wanting to go home, I guess, no matter what you ate.

Now that I think about it, simple meals should have their place on my blog more than anything else: BECAUSE they are so simple. They come in handy when you might otherwise choose to eat some convenience food, by lack of time.

This pesto rice can be well made in advance, either by keeping all ingredients separately ready and assemble them as hunger strikes. Or, if you choose to have it for a weekday lunch at work, it can be assembled and kept in an airtight container. 
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PESTO RICE WITH FETA


1 cup brown rice, cooked
1 tablespoon pesto (or according to taste)*
1 handful of arugula leaves, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon mixed roasted seeds
1 tablespoon crumbled feta

Thyme Spinach Pesto
1/4 cup fresh thyme leaves
1 cup spinach leaves
1 cup walnuts or pine nuts, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

* any green herb pesto will do here. Here are the recipes for

Serves 1
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Cook rice according to instructions. Stir pesto into warm rice. Fold in the arugula. Sprinkle with roasted seeds and feta. Ready to serve.

Thyme Spinach Pesto
Combine thyme and spinach leaves and nuts and blend in a food processor until it becomes a smooth paste. Slowly blend in the olive oil (only taking a small amounts at a time) until fully incorporated. Season with salt and pepper.
Continue Reading>>

12 December, 2011

Chocolate Chestnut Muffins

Recently, I've been thinking about the purpose of my blog a lot. It was triggered by a post of my dear friend Edwina of My Mezzaluna; a post about the genuineness of a blog (read the post here).
Do you have something to say, is your blog a diary or do you want to show off your food photography skills?
I'll be honest. When visiting food blogs, I often scroll down straight to the ingredients list of a recipe, as this usually determines whether I will interested or not. If the ingredients list sounds good, I might just read the whole post. Surely, a good food picture can catch my eye and curiosity. But just pretty pictures are not enough either.

So what do I have to say? I have been called a health nut. I am not sure if it was meant as a compliment. Perhaps, more a stamp. Yes, I am a slim person, but I do not starve myself. How could I, while training for a marathon? Over a period of three to four years I was able to listen to the calls of my body again. After living off cheese sandwiches and sugar loaded breakfast cereals throughout my university years, I can now recognize what my body needs. And by giving it real foods, I know when my body needs carbohydrates, proteins or certain, minerals, salts or vitamins. Naturally, you will stop eating when you are full. Naturally, you will not have crazy cravings after dinner, because the real foods will be satisfying enough. Foods should firstly be judged by the amount of minerals and vitamins they will provide. The carbs/proteins/fats that come with it are secondary to that.

I guess the purpose of my blog has become to encourage people to go back and eat real foods. Perhaps educate them about real whole foods and nutrition. With a mainly sedentary lifestyle that many people in the Western world lead, it doesn't need much food to cover the energy consumption. That's why it is even more important to pay attention to the nutritional value. Many people in the Western world are malnourished. This malnourishment is what can lead to the so-called lifestyle diseases like diabetes, stroke, heart disease and cancer. Processed foods have become a staple in the Western diet. With the help of advertising, processed foods are mistaken as healthy.

Educate yourself about food and nutrition. Show some responsibility towards your body. Show some respect. Cook from scratch. Don't eat things that have more than a couple of ingredients listed. Don't eat things that are being advertised on billboards or TV. Ideally, all your foods should be whole foods. You will reap the rewards very soon, by feeling better, being less tired, more energized, in a better mood, more balanced, more focused.

It's been a long way for me, and I am not saying that my diet is faultless. But everyone can do it, and eating better will soon become second nature.
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CHOCOLATE CHESTNUT MUFFINS

1/3 cup chestnut flour
1/4 cup almond meal
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon guar gum

2 eggs
1/3 cup palm sugar
1/4 cup yogurt
1/4 cup neutral oil (coconut or grapeseed oil work well)

Yields 6
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Preheat oven to 180C/375F. Grease or line muffin tin.

In a bowl, sift together chestnut flour, almond meal, cocoa, baking soda and guar gum. Set aside.
In another bowl, whisk eggs and sugar until fluffy. Stir in yogurt and oil until well combined. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Spoon batter into prepared muffin molds. Bake for 20-22 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.
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07 December, 2011

Vietnamese Chicken Salad

How many days until Christmas? Little more than two weeks? Oh dear.....
Time is just rushing by. I haven't had time yet to try new Christmas cookies. Instead I am baking my old tested and approved Snowball Cookies (which, by the way, work really well with buckwheat flour, in case you prefer yours gluten-free) and Gingerbread Cookies. I also wanted to organize a big home-crafted Christmas Give-Away for you, but it's nowhere near ready to even be announced.

I think I will ignore Christmas totally on my blog (although I still have one cake recipe in the pipeline), and move on to January. A new year. With New Year resolutions. Eating healthier is probably pretty high up on many people's New Year resolutions lists. After several days of Christmas gluttony, you may feel you want to clean up your diet, or at least parts of it.

This Vietnamese Chicken Salad is my latest passion. I could have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It's  full of flavor and freshness, It's got so many different textures and colors. And it leaves you full for long, I promise. You want to know what my favorite ingredient in here is? The mint. I went so far as to replacing the cabbage with mint. Traditionally, Vietnamese coriander is put into these chicken salads. I have never tried it. I am not sure I ever will, as the mint is my star in this dish.
So this salad is my recommendation to all those who want to start or continue eating more healthily, a healthy dish that doesn't compromise flavor.
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VIETNAMESE CHICKEN SALAD


3 chicken breasts
2 tablespoons fish sauce (alternatively soy sauce)*

4 cups Napa cabbage, finely sliced or shredded
2 carrots, cut into matchsticks
2 cucumbers, cut into matchsticks
2 cups fresh mint leaves or Vietnamese coriander, loosely packed
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, chopped

Dressing
4 tablespoons fish sauce (alternatively soy sauce)*
4 tablespoons water
2 red chili, deseeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons honey

* fish sauce is what is traditionally being used in a Vietnamese Chicken Salad. Substitute with soy sauce, if you have adverse reactions to fish sauce.

Serves 4
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Marinade the chicken in fish/soy sauce for 20 minutes. Grill until tender, about 10-15 minutes. Let cool, then shred. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients for the dressing. 

Just before serving, combine shredded cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, and mint leaves in a serving bowl. Pour enough dressing over the shredded chicken, so it's well coated. Add chicken to the salad, then sprinkle with roasted peanuts. Add more dressing to the salad if needed. Serve immediately.
Continue Reading>>

03 December, 2011

Fish Curry in a Hurry

I admit I am still at a loss with most spices. Now that I live in the Middle East, close to India, the spice shelves are packed with spices I am not even familiar with. Although I can identify a lot more spices by their looks and smells than 7 years ago, before I moved to Dubai. But I don't know how to use them.

I am still very clumsy with most spices. If I ask my Indian neighbors what they put into their curry, I loose count. And what makes even worse for me, that they do it so naturally. In most cases they can't even tell me how much they put in. Nothing gets measured up in half or full teaspoons.Whenever I use spices in my curries, I strictly follow a recipe, but still feel like I don't know what I am doing.

But then again, I love curries. So what will make me happier than a curry recipe that only has three spices in it of which I know all? Furthermore, if the recipe is an authentic recipe from Tanzania. It's Sips and Spoonfuls's Pan Fried Fish in Mild Coconut Curry. Sukaina must know. It's her heritage. I would have never thought that such little ingredients, chili, turmeric and coconut milk can make such an amazing dish. It is the easiest thing to cook, yet it's amazingly tasty.
Needless to say that this fish curry is now a staple in our house.
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FISH CURRY IN A HURRY
slightly adapted from Sips and Spoonfuls


1 1/2 lbs firm white fish
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 lemon, juice of

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tomato, finely chopped or grated
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
2 cups coconut milk

Serves 4
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Marinate the fish with lemon juice, salt and red chili powder.

Heat half the oil in a frying pan and fry the fish on medium heat for 4-5 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Set aside.

In a pot, heat the remaining oil and fry the garlic for a few seconds. Add the grated tomato, turmeric and salt to taste and fry till the tomato has cooked, about 4 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk and keep stirring till the mixture comes to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer half covered for 15 minutes. Add the fried fish and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Serve with rice.
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29 November, 2011

Gingerbread Bundt Cake

I thought, only Germans could bake cakes with four (or more) eggs in it. My German Cheesecake is the only cake so far on this blog that uses  FOUR eggs. Whenever I saw a recipe that calls for more than two eggs, I used to get suspicious.

But why actually? Why do eggs have such a bad reputation? I love my eggs these days, more than ever. I blame my marathon training and increased protein demands of my body. Apart from that, they are simply delicious: they make lovely cakes, you can throw almost everything into an omelette, which makes a good and satisfying meal at any time of the day. So what's the bad stuff in it?

None, really. When the high cholesterol panic surfaced about a decade ago, eggs were considered the bad boys, because they naturally contain high levels of cholesterol. However, they are very low in saturated fats. Saturated fats, together with the trans-fats are the main reason for high cholesterol levels. Consuming eggs may help you keep you cholesterol levels in check. Eggs are a good source of vitamin A, E and K. Egg yolks are one of few foods that naturally contain vitamin D. Other nutrients, such as iron, folate, and vitamin B12 can be found in eggs. The protein found in eggs is considered one of the best quality proteins. Eggs also contain choline, a nutrient that provides brain health and prevents heart disease.

All good things, right? Now if eggs are combined with low-carb coconut flour, almond meal, honey and an array of spices that will bring Gingerbread smells to your house, you can dig in and be sure you are eating something that tastes absolutely delicious AND is good for you.

I love Christmas baking. This is one of the moistest and tastiest cake, gluten-free and with ingredients good enough to be eaten for breakfast. My staple cake for this year's Christmas get-togethers.
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GINGERBREAD BUNDT CAKE


1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

4 eggs
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup coconut oil (or other neutral oil, e.g. grapeseed oil)
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Maple Vanilla Coconut Frosting (Optional)
slightly adapted from She Let Them Eat Cake

1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup coconut oil, liquefied
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup coconut milk
pinch of salt

Yields one 8" cake
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Preheat oven to 180C/375F. Lightly grease a 8" or 9" bundt cake tin.
In a bowl, sift together coconut flour, almond meal, baking soda, and spices.  Set aside.

In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Stir in honey, oil, coconut milk and vanilla. Combine wet and dry ingredients until just combined. Pour batter into prepared cake tin. Bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean. Let cool completely.

Maple Vanilla Coconut Frosting
Whisk together all ingredients until well combined. Keep mixture in the fridge to harden it a little, about 10-15 minutes. Blend again, then apply on the cooled cake. Keep in the fridge to harden again or keep in cool place.
Continue Reading>>

24 November, 2011

Seaweed Sesame Crackers

My recent cravings for salty and savory foods, due to my intensive marathon training,  have brought me back to seaweed. These days, I can have seaweed as early as breakfast time.
As long as you have it, no matter when, it can only be good for you. Here are some facts: Seaweed contains the broadest range of minerals of any food. It contains considerable amounts of iron AND vitamin to make the body absorb it. Seaweed is anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anticoagulant, antithrombotic, and antiviral. A superfood, in other words.

I made my old, traditional seaweed salad, the salad that my husband thinks made me fall in love with him. I imagined that the dried wakame would be good in crackers too. Husband was already complaining about the almost empty bowl of crackers that he loves to tuck in to after work. My buckwheat almond crackers have been my most successful recipe so far. So I decided to throw the seaweed into those.

A true success. Even my daughter likes them as the seaweed only comes through as a subtle note. She didn't like the salad, which I didn't expect children to like. I am happy she like the crackers. I think one can never try enough get the kids used to GREEN edible foods. Mission completed: recipe successful, husband is feeling loved and daughter eating her green veggies. Now I just need to make sure I get my share. It was me, who was craving seaweed in the first place!

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SEAWEED SESAME CRACKERS

3/4 cup light buckwheat flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1/4 cup dried cut wakame seaweed
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/2-2/3 cup water

Yields ca. 25 crackers
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Preheat oven to 180C/375F. 

Combine flour, almond meal salt and dried seaweed in a food processor. Pulse until seaweed is finely chopped. Transfer to bowl. Stir in sesame seeds. Add water and knead until well combined. Cover the bowl and let sit for 10 minutes or so.
Between two sheets of parchment paper, roll out the dough as thin and even as possible. Remove top baking sheet. If the dough appears to tear apart, put the dough with both parchment papers in the freezer for a few minutes. Afterwards, it will be easier to tear of the top sheet.
 With a knife or cookie cutter, cut the dough into desired shapes. Poke each cracker with a fork to prevent puffing. Transfer onto baking sheet (with bottom parchment paper).
Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until edges turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool. Break crackers at pre-cut edges. Serve immediately or keep in open bowl.
Continue Reading>>

21 November, 2011

Hearty Vegetable Soup

I have been brought up on sweet breakfasts: cereals, breads with honey or jam, etc. A boiled egg was probably the most savory thing I could have before noon. Fried meat or eggs that early in the morning were never my cup of tea. 

Now all this doesn't apply when you get up at 4am to run a Half Marathon at 6.30am, as this is what I did last Friday. By 9am after a long and energy-consuming race that had you running for 2 hours or so, you need to replenish. Not with just fresh fruit and a nibble. Bring on the grilled chicken, fish on skewers, garlicky salads, hummus. You want salty, savory, bold flavors: a sign that you have lost minerals during the race. So at around 9am, I was digging into all this: grilled fish, chicken, hummus, bean salads, boiled eggs, etc.

I have noticed that my sweet tooth has taken a bit of back seat since I started my Marathon Training. I still like to grab a muffin or a piece of fruit every now and then, but more often than not, I eat a bowl of hummus with crackers or go look for some leftover chicken or a big chunk of cheese in the fridge. Hearty things are being called for.

This hearty vegetable soup I have made about once per week in the the last month or so. It's a good fridge cleaner soup, as you can throw in whatever veggies you have at hand. Red lentils make it nicely thick, so that it gets stew character. But the best are the herbs and spices: fennel, cumin, thyme, and paprika. No stock is needed to make this soup tasty. The other good thing is that this soup can be on your table in about 30 minutes. A good weekday dinner, and good to make in advance as it keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days. My new favorite.
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HEARTY VEGETABLE SOUP

(Print Recipe)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 large carrot, diced
2 medium potatoes, diced
5 celery stalks, diced
2 cups green beans, trimmed and cut into thirds
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons tomato puree
1 tablespoon ground paprika
5 cups water
1 dried bay leaf

1/3 cup red lentils

fresh parsley, roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste

Serves 3-4
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Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add cumin seeds, fennel seeds and chili flakes and fry until the seeds start to pop. Add onion and garlic and saute until softened.

Add carrots, green beans, celery and potato. Season with salt, pepper and thyme. Sprinkle with paprika and add tomato puree. Stir well and pour water over the vegetables. Add bay leaf. Cook for 5 minutes on high heat, until veggies start to soften.

Add lentils and simmer for 10 minutes or until lentils are cooked. Season with more salt and pepper if necessary and sprinkle with parsley. Remove bay leaf. Ready to serve.
Continue Reading>>

19 November, 2011

Race Report: Abu Dhabi Half Marathon, 18 November 2011

I am the tiny one in the middle
My decision to run this half marathon in Abu Dhabi was very short-noticed. I usually sign up for all my runs of the season in September, soon after registration opens.
In previous years my first half marathon of the season would be in mid-December. A strategic decision, because weather conditions for long-distance (like 20k+) outdoor running in Dubai only become bearable during November. In other words, my serious training for the upcoming half marathons only started in November in previous years. Now I would already run one in November.

I waited until the very last day that registration was open. By that time, I was training for the full marathon in January and already had a 21k training run under my belt. That was proof enough that could run the distance, so I signed up for the race. Another 26k run as part of the marathon training followed, which added to my confidence.

Race day comes, and I get up at 4am to meet up with fellow runners. As usual, I didn't need my alarm clock to get up at 4am. The adrenaline in my body is working very reliably the night before a race. I woke up about every two hours straight through the night, each time ready to get up and go running.
Abu Dhabi is an hours drive away from Dubai. The race was supposed to start at 6.30am, just after sunrise.

We reached about 45 minutes before the start, early enough to visit the toilets numerous times, check out the start area, and check out who else is running. The running community in the Emirates is not huge. The usual suspects were getting ready. The usual question was asked: What time are you going for? My half marathon goal for this season was to run under 1:45:00, which would qualify me to a preferred start for the following half marathons. Not a huge goal, as I only had to shave off 16 seconds of my PB. Yet, I wasn't sure if I could do it in the first run of the season.

The gun went off, and I settled into a pace of about 5min per km. That would bring me home in about 1:45:00. My leg muscles felt a little tight, probably from the strenuous marathon training that I have been doing. I was just hoping to be able to keep up this pace.

The race went nice and steady up until 10-12km. Not many people overtook, nor did I overtake many people. It was a quiet race. No-one was talking. Not that I am usually a chatterbox while running, but you get to hear one or the other remark about the weather, the course, the current feelings, etc. During this race no-one was talking.

At 15k, I decided I had some energy left to shift up gears. 6k I could oversee. Just another 30 minutes to go, I told myself. According to my watch I wasn't particularly faster, perhaps just a few seconds per km. It probably just took more energy to keep at the same pace. But I kept on overtaking people on those last kilometers. And that's always a boost to your confidence. I felt strong and I wondered if I should have started my "sprint" even before the 15k mark.



I finished at 1:44:56 (gross time) and landed a new PB with 1:44:39 (net time). That's about 40 seconds off my previous PB from February this year. I finished 15th woman (out of 140 or so), and was 12th in my age group ( all the under 40s). I reached my goal! I am now qualified for a preferred start at future half marathons in the UAE. I am happy. I am running another half marathon in 3 weeks time, here in Dubai. Can't wait to see how I will do there!


Continue Reading>>

16 November, 2011

Apricot and Cranberry Nut Bread

It's only another month until Christmas, have you noticed? It always comes as a surprise to me. Christmas suddenly just stands in front of the door. The main reason for the surprise factor is probably that I will never get used to the fact that the weather can be sunny and warm/hot over Christmas. I come from Germany. Christmas has to be cold, dark and gray. Only in lucky years white with snow.

Now here in Dubai it is quite the opposite: sunny and warm. Nevertheless, I have christmas-sy cravings: freshly cracked nuts and dried fruit. Both are very traditional parts of how I grew up up celebrating the Christmas time. When I was a kid, our family would spend dark and cold evenings cuddled up on the sofa, cracking walnuts and hazelnuts and eat them with tiny pieces of marzipan. Dried fruit would be in all sorts of Christmas cakes, most of all in the German Christmas Stollen.

The idea behind this bread was rooted in my Christmas cravings. I cracked the hazelnuts and pecans myself (which took forever), but I was in no rush. I love the taste of these nuts. By adding just a few, they are not overwhelming. But they are in every other bite.
The bread is not overtly sweet, but the fruity sweet flavor from the cranberries and apricots is just enough to have make it suitable for afternoon tea. A little drizzle of honey can help adding some more sweetness. I like to have it with a dollop of  natural yogurt and some chopped dried fruit. A complete guilt-free start of the Christmas season. Let the baking begin!
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APRICOT AND CRANBERRY NUT BREAD


1 cup whole almonds (or 1 1/3 cups almond meal)
1/3 cup hazelnuts and pecan nuts, roughly chopped

1/3 cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
1/3 cup dried cranberries*
1/2 cup water

3 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vinegar
2 tablespoons coconut oil

Serve with
honey
strained yogurt
chopped dried fruit

* Many dried cranberries contain added sugar, as they are naturally not sweet enough. If you want to make this cake without added sugar, swap them with raisins.

Serves 8
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Preheat oven to 180C/375F. Grease or line loaf tin with parchment paper.

Place the apricots and cranberries in a small pot. Pour over the water and simmer gently until almost all water has been soaked up. Place mixture in a food processor. Add the hazelnuts and pecan nuts. Blend to a slightly chunky paste. Set aside.

In another bowl, whisk the eggs until light and fluffy. Stir in baking soda, vinegar and coconut oil, until well combined. Set aside.

Process the whole almonds in a food processor to a fine meal. Transfer to a bowl. Stir in the dried fruit mixture. Then gently fold in the egg mixture.

Transfer batter to the prepared loaf tin. Bake for about 30 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. Let cool on wire rack. Cut into wedges or slices. Serve with strained yogurt and a drizzle of honey.

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11 November, 2011

Chocolate Carrot Muffins

I am halfway through my second week of marathon training. I just completed my 26k long slow run last night. It went good. Surely, I have tired legs today, but all is within expectations. I am not flat on my back. That's all I want.

My food intake has been increasing steadily since I started the training.  Muffins have become a staple in my diet again. I am very proud of these chocolate carrot muffins, because I seldom succeeded in making good chocolate muffins. In fact, almost without fail, they turned out too dry, not sweet enough, not chocolaty enough. This chocolate muffin recipe is the yummiest I have ever made. On top, they are gluten-free and dairy-free. Perfectly moist. My kids love them as much as I do. Which results, in me baking batch after batch, if I am not busy running or eating. Or sleeping. The three most basic basics of life.

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CHOCOLATE CARROT MUFFINS

1/3 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 eggs
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup light neutral oil (I used grapeseed oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup carrots, coarsely grated
2 tablespoons chopped almonds (optional)

Yields 6
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Preheat oven to 180C/375F. Grease or line muffin tin.

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

In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Stir in honey, oil and vanilla until well combined. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Gently fold in carrots. Spoon batter into prepared muffin molds. Sprinkle with chopped almonds. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean.

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07 November, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash with Nut Sage Parmesan

First things first: the Parmesan in this recipe is not real Parmesan. it doesn't even have the smallest crumb of Parmesan on the ingredients list. It gets even better: it's vegan. And it's raw. And I am loving it.

I came across the recipe somewhere on the web and got curious. Parmesan made out of nuts, perhaps flavored with some fresh herbs? I bet, most health freaks would be hooked. I went to buy Brazil nuts on the very same day. At home, I had some butternut and fresh sage left from my frittata.

Now butternut or pumpkin and sage are a match made in heaven. So I put the sage into my raw and vegan Parmesan, to be sprinkled onto roasted little squares of butternut. It's so divine, you will not believe how simple and fast it is to make. It's a perfect starter, a superb quick weekday lunch at home, and indeed good for any BBQs. My daughter sprinkled the Nut Sage Parmesan on plain rice and loved it. Brazil Nut Parmesan: another staple in our house.
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ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH WITH NUT SAGE PARMESAN

1 butternut squash
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
chili flakes

1/4 cup Brazil nuts
6 fresh sage leaves
1 small garlic clove, peeled
1/2 tablespoon olive oil

Serves 4
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Preheat oven to 200C/400F. Lightly grease a roasting pan.

Peel and deseed the butternut squash. Cut into bite sized squares.  Drizzle with a little olive oil and toss until coated. Spread the pieces on the roasting pan. Sprinkle with chili flakes. Roast for about 15 minutes or until butternut is tender. Avoid overcooking, as they tend to fall apart.

Meanwhile, combine Brazil nuts, sage leaves, garlic and olive oil in a food processor. Pulse until the texture is that of finely grated Parmesan cheese.

Transfer roasted butternut squash onto serving plate. Sprinkle each piece with 1/2 teaspoon of the Nut Sage Parmesan. Serve immediately.
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03 November, 2011

Chestnut Honey Muffins

Dessert recipes are usually the most popular on my site. So has anyone noticed that I haven't posted any cake or muffin recipes lately? Blame my husband, he is still addicted to the Apple Lemon Honey Cake, the only cake that I have been baking since I posted the recipe back in September.
Honestly, it interfered with my ambitious plans to explore chestnut flour, that I happened to find in our local grocery store. On top of that I decided to go grain-free for some time. Now who would eat my muffins? My one and only regular and reliable muffin and cake eater and critic in the house wanting nothing else than Apple Lemon Honey Cake. Life can be tough.

Luckily, things have changed and muffins will be eaten again in our house. By me! As you may have read in my previous posts, I have started training for a marathon again. I need more carbs, and because I find it hard to get enough of them with a grain-free diet, I decided to reintroduce them again: the gluten-free ones, preferably.

So, all of a sudden, my chestnut flour was back in fashion, and after a few attempts, I got my muffins where I wanted them: moist, spongy, sweet and with this lovely autumnal chestnut flavor. These muffins are a double success for me, because I finally baked something edible with coconut oil. In previous attempts the cakes/muffins would be horribly dry. I figured, if using coconut oil, I have to increase the amount slightly. I hope you will enjoy them as much as I do!
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CHESTNUT HONEY MUFFINS

1/2 cup chestnut flour
1/2 cup gluten-free bread flour
1/2 teaspoon guar gum
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 large egg
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon vinegar
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup yogurt

3 tablespoons raisins

Yields 6
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Preheat oven to 180C/375F. Line or grease muffin tin.

In a large bowl, sift together chestnut and GF bread flours, guar gum and baking soda. Set aside.

In another bowl, lightly beat the egg. Stir in coconut oil, vinegar, honey and yogurt. Combine wet and and dry ingredients. Stir until just combined. Fill batter into prepared muffin molds.

Bake for about 15-18 minutes, or until cake tester come out clean.

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31 October, 2011

Red Lentil Dal

I am marathon training again. It took a while to convince myself. Firstly, I didn't get into the London Marathon next year. Although the chances were pretty slim anyway, I sulked.  Secondly, I ran my first marathon last year in just under 4 hours. I couldn't quite set myself a new goal that would be appealing: under 3:30 hours would be a tad too ambitious, I guess :-) Thirdly, the marathon course of last year's Dubai Marathon was flat and fast, but boring as hell. Imagine running 21k straight, make a U-turn and run 21k straight back, with not really much to see left and right, apart from about a thousand beauty clinics that are lined up on this road. Fourthly, I am more wrapped up with work than last year, and it will be even more difficult to squeeze in the time to do all this running.

Now what made me change my mind? They changed the marathon route. Start and finish will be at the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building of the world. It's got some big city atmosphere down there, and I think it will be nice spot to start and finish a marathon.

So I got last year's 12-week marathon training plan out again, as it worked really well for me. If you are interested in the training plan and the progress that I am making, please check out my running section. I plan to post the plan there, and give you weekly updates of how it is going physically, emotionally, and perhaps discuss food and nutrition-related issues as they come along.

I started training last week. I allowed a warm-up week to increase my mileage and get my body used to a whole lot more exercise than it was used to in the last month or so. Today is my first official day of my marathon training. I ran 10k in the morning.
What can I say after seven days of warm-up and one day of official training? I can feel my energy consumption is going up. A lot. I am hungry. Constantly. In the past few weeks I have been living almost grain-free. I don't think this is sustainable while preparing for a marathon. While it won't be a problem to stay gluten-free, I think I will need my bowls of brown rice, quinoa or buckwheat to get some carbs in.

Another way will be legumes. I made a big pot of this Red Lentil Dal last week. It served perfectly for a post-run meal, delivering all the carbs and proteins, while being easy on the stomach. It's warming and comforting, the perfect autumn meal.
Definitely a keeper that will accompany through the winter months and along my training.
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RED LENTIL DAL

1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

1 tablespoon nut oil
1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 cup red lentils
2 tomatoes, chopped

2,5-3 cups water

Serve with:
chopped raw cashews
natural yogurt
raisins
desiccated or shredded coconut

Serves 3-4
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In a dry pan, roast the cumin seeds for a few minutes, until fragrant. Take off the heat and grind the seeds. Set aside.

In a medium sized pan, heat the oil over high heat. Add the mustard seeds and cook until they start to pop. Turn down the heat to medium, then add chopped onion and fry until softened, 2-3 minutes. Now add all the spices, garlic and ginger. Cook until fragrant, another minute or so.

Add red lentils and toss until well coated. Stir in chopped tomatoes. Add the water. Bring the lentil to a simmer, then cook uncovered on medium low heat until lentil are soft, about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Serve warm with a dollop of yogurt and sprinkles of raisins, chopped cashews and shredded coconut.
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27 October, 2011

Pumpkin and Spinach Frittata

Continuing my argument from my last post that I am a peasant at heart, I'll always prefer homemade foods over restaurant foods. And what better opportunity of having homemade foods would there be than a potluck of food bloggers.
A few weeks back, us food bloggers based in the United Arab Emirates were invited to a potluck at the lovely Devina's house ("Since I can't cook for all of ya, the least I can do is offer my house up. "). To make sure we all bring something, she added  the Wikipedia definition of what a potluck is about.

Homemade foods radiate comfort. It's foods that can be shared with families and friends. Foods that are eaten when you enjoy the company of the people around you. Foods that are packed with flavors. Foods that mirror the culture of the cook. Recipes that possibly have been passed on from generation to generation. The potluck then adds a random note to it. A wild collection of different foods.
I think I ate myself through every single bowl on the long table. Afterwards I packed a huge doggie bag. In that bag was the last piece of the most delicious Pumpkin Frittata, made by Sidiqa of Spontaneous Euphoria.

Since I have been going on a mostly grain-free diet, I am very open to egg dishes. Flavorful egg dishes that is. This frittata has the most amazing flavor profile, combining sweet butternut, fresh sage, salty feta and some chili flakes. I added spinach to my version. I have to stop myself not to eat the whole thing (with 6 eggs in it). That's how good it is. It's good to have for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner.
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PUMPKIN AND SPINACH FRITTATA
inspired by a recipe of Sidiqa of Spontaneous Euphoria

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
pinch salt 

1 1/2 cups pumpkin or butternut squash, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
3 tablespoons fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped

2 cups fresh spinach, loosely packed and roughly chopped
6 eggs
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled or diced
salt and pepper to taste

Serves 3-4
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Preheat oven to 180C/375F. Lightly grease oven-proof pan or cake tin (no bigger than 8 inches/20cm). Set aside.

In a another pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and season with a pinch of salt. Cook onions until softened. Add garlic halves, sage and chili flakes and cook until fragrant, another minute or so. Now add the pumpkin and cook until soft and slightly caramelized. Add the spinach and cook until just wilted. Take off the heat. Take out the garlic.

Whisk the eggs and pour them into the prepared pan or cake tin. Season with salt and pepper. Add the pumpkin and spinach mixture and spread evenly. Sprinkle the feta on top. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until set. The cooking time depends on how thick your frittata is. Thicker ones will take longer than flat ones.

Cut into wedges and serve immediately.
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25 October, 2011

Marathon Training Plan 2011/2012

Now here it is: My marathon training plan for my second marathon. It shall be the Dubai Marathon again, on 27 January 2012.
Click to enlarge

I pulled out last year's training plan, which is a 12-week program. I went well with it, as I finished in just under 4 hours (read more about it here).  I am still pretty much a marathon novice, but straight away I can say, that I prefer 12-week to 16-week programs. The time and physical effort while juggling work, family, food blogging, etc. at the same time is hard enough for 12 weeks, let alone 16.

My training program is adapted from Runners World (check here). It gives me just two key workouts per week. The rest I can organize myself. That includes the weekly mileage, how many runs apart from those two, etc. I found this convenient and it promised to be efficient (and so it was last year). Once I set myself a goal time, everything else will be calculated accordingly. Here are my figures for the Dubai Marathon 2012:

Marathon Goal Time: 3h45 min

Tempo Pace (TP): 4:50 min per km
Marathon Pace (MP): 5:20 per km
Steady Long Run in Training: 5:52 per km/ 10.2 km per hour
Maximum Mileage per week for the training: 45 miles/72-73km
Overall Training Mileage: 720k

I am planning to give you weekly updates on how the training is going, how I feel physically and emotionally and will discuss any nutrition issues that might come up along the way.

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23 October, 2011

Coconut Lime Popsicles

I have always liked foods with little ingredients. It spells SIMPLE and UNCOMPLICATED and TIME-EFFICIENT and FOOL-PROOF to me. That's just my alley. Because deep in my heart I think I am a peasant.  I like cakes made with 3 ingredients.

Now here is another one with just three: Coconut Lime Popsicles. If I had an ice cream machine, it would probably make the most delicious and exquisite ice cream. But I don't (because I am a peasant at heart?). I only have popsicle molds.

These popsicles were a trial and error recipe. I started of with just coconut milk and honey (how cool would have been just two ingredients!!!), but found those a bit on the heavy side. Something acidic was missing. Now what would be closer than using the old classic combination of coconut and lime.
I have only made a couple of times, but I know this will be a staple dessert in our house. Simple and healthy and nevertheless a dessert. What else could one wish for?
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COCONUT LIME POPSICLES


1 400ml can coconut milk, full fat
1/2 lime, juice of
3 tablespoons agave syrup OR honey OR maple syrup

Yields 3-4
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Place the can of coconut milk in the fridge overnight. Without shaking or turning the can upside down, open the can and scoop the top layer of coconut cream into a bowl. Discard the water at the bottom.
Stir in honey and lime juice until well combined. Transfer mixture to popsicle molds and freeze until solid.
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21 October, 2011

Lemon Cinnamon Grain-Free Granola


Going grain-free naturally leads you to exploring nuts and seeds.
My first grain free granola, the Orange Date Nut Clusters,  a couple of weeks back has become a staple in my house. I now explore different flavors. That can be done by using different nuts and seeds, or by flavoring the "sauce".

In this granola I used black sesame seeds, as I ran out of flax seeds when I was about to make a new batch. Black sesame seeds will make a great addition to any granola. While white sesame seeds have a more nutty flavor, the black ones are more on the bitter side, but in a pleasant, subtle way. In combination with the nutty, sweet nuts and seeds, like almonds, pistachios, sunflower seeds and also coconut, it adds another dimension to the overall taste. Black sesame seeds are often used in Chinese or Japanese cooking. You'll find them at Asian grocery stores.

For the "sauce" I used the sweetness of dates, flavored with cinnamon and lemon zest.  I love this granola on top of fresh fruit and some goats yogurt. It will kick-start your day with a mountain of vitamins and minerals, natural unsaturated fats, without refined sugar or gluten. Here is a little summary of the goodness of each ingredient:

Dates: rich in dietary fiber and antioxidants, excellent source of iron

Cinnamon: helps reducing the rise of blood sugar levels after a high carb meal. You will feel full longer with a sprinkle of cinnamon in you meal. Cinnamon is an excellent source of manganese and a very good source of fiber, iron and calcium.

Almonds (with skin): very good source of unsaturated fats, manganese, antioxidants and vitamin E.

Pistachios:  very good source of unsaturated fats, antioxidants and fiber.

Sesame seeds: very good source of unsaturated fats, magnesium and copper. Good source of iron, zinc and vitamin B.

Sunflower seeds: excellent source of vitamin B1 and E.

Coconut: rich in lauric acid, which is known for being antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal, and boosts the immune system.
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 LEMON CINNAMON GRAIN-FREE  GRANOLA


1/2 cup dates, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup water
1 lemon, zest of
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 cups almonds, roughly chopped
1 cup pistachios, roughly shopped
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup white sesame seeds
1/4 cup black sesame seeds

1/2 cup unsweetened desiccated coconut
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Combine dates, water, lemon zest and cinnamon in a small pan. Bring to boil over medium heat, then simmer for 3-5 minutes. Let cool a little before blending it into a paste in a food processor. Set aside. Mix the paste into the nuts and seeds until well coated.
Preheat oven to 165C/325F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roughly chop the almonds and pistachios. In a large bowl, combine all nuts and seeds. Mix the paste into the nuts and seeds until well coated.

Spread out onto baking sheet in a single layer. Roast for 25-30 minutes or until dry. Turn clusters over half way through. If they seem to take longer than 30 minutes, check regularly afterwards, as they burn quickly past the half-hour mark. Let cool completely. Break up bigger clusters. Stir in coconut. Store in airtight container.
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17 October, 2011

Melon Shapes with Mint and Feta

I have just survived one of the toughest weekends in the year: my son's 6th birthday and the party that we threw for him. Every time I organize a birthday party, it takes me by surprise how much time and energy goes into something that looks like just some garlands, games and a cake.
I am exhausted. I am glad it's over. I hope the kids had fun.

In Dubai, one can pretty much buy everything: people who decorate your house, people who entertain your kids, and of course, the cake. However, we have always done it ourselves. Well, not the big cake. But the rest. I call our parties shooting-from-the-hip parties or this is what it looks like to our guests. A seemingly spontaneous going-with-the-flow party.

But behind the curtains, things have been planned. I have been researching and downloading kids favorite party songs for the disco and musical chair/statue games, tested them on my kids. Planned a variety of games and prepared necessary props/prizes for it. Decorated the house, blew a million balloons manually. Prepared foods/snacks/drinks for 10-15 kids and their accompanying parent.

I love to dish up fresh fruit, and traditionally, those are very popular among parents and kids. Only recently  I discovered that watermelon and mint go together really well. Sprinkled with a few crumbs of feta cheese to add another flavor dimension and ready is your party snack. Best served ice-cold, to make it truly refreshing. It was just what everyone needed to cool down from the hot dancing, or the still scorching Dubai temperatures outside, that we had yesterday.

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MELON SHAPES WITH MINT AND FETA


2 lbs water melon
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 handful fresh mint leaves, chopped

Serves 6
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Cut melon into 1 1/2 inch thick slices. With cookie cutters of your choice cut, shapes out of the slices. Sprinkle with a little crumbled feta cheese and garnish with fresh mint leaves. Serve ice-cold.
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12 October, 2011

Roasted Butternut with Arugula and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

I love my lunch salads these days, and although I have posted a similar recipe sometime ago, I'd  like to share this one with you: it's a salad that I had for lunch at a cafe recently that I really liked because of its simplicity. Yet, it doesn't lack any flavor, and, needless to say, the nutritional value of it makes it all worth it even more. It's sweet roasted pumpkin on a bed of arugula leaves, spiced with a simple dressing and sprinkled with tart sun-dried tomatoes and sweet roasted pine nuts. Add grilled chicken strips if you want, and I assure you, it will leave you full and satisfied for a long time. You can eat a full bowl of it without feeling guilty. A perfect lunch salad.

The more I learn about nutrition, the more I experiment with one or the other forms of a diet, the more I learn about my body and how it reacts on foods. I have been trying to go grain-free as much as possible lately, and I must say I feel great. I have been trying to be refined-sugar free for a long time, and it's feeling good. I do well with chicken and fish in my diet. I find it hard to give up dairy in form of milk in my coffee or tea and yogurt. I love my beans and lentils.

I guess, everyone has to find out for themselves, what's good for them. Education is the key, and a basic understanding of what food does to your body is essential, and far too often missing when I talk to people about their nutrition.
I often have the impression, that people are not even aware of direct reactions of their bodies to the foods they eat. So please, speak up, swim against the current and tell people whenever you have a chance, how important it is to take care of one's nutrition: that fruit juices and breakfast cereals are not healthy, that white breads and processed meats have no nutritional value. That whole foods are the way to go.

It takes a long time to convince people that their eating habits are wrong. It took me more than 30 years to realize that I ate the wrong foods. But once, you realize what it does to your overall well-being, your mood, your energy levels and your immune system, you will know you are on the right path. Once this reality has sunken in, I seriously cannot imagine anyone going back to old eating patterns.
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ROASTED BUTTERNUT WITH ARUGULA AND SUN-DRIED TOMATOES


2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 teaspoon olive oil
pinch of salt

4 cups arugula, washed and dried
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup boiling water
2 tablespoon pine nuts 

1 cup grilled chicken breast, cut into strips (optional)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Serves 4
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Preheat oven to 220C/400F.

Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of olive oil and salt over butternut cubes and toss until coated. Spread out in single layer on a baking tray. Roast for 20 minutes or until soft.

In a dry pan, roast the pine nuts for a couple of minutes, until lightly browned and fragrant. Set aside.
Pour boiling water over the sun-dried tomatoes and let stand for 10 minutes. Drain and chop finely. Set aside.
Combine olive oil and balsamic vinegar and whisk until well combined.

Put arugula leaves into serving bowl. Pour over the dressing and toss until coated. Add roasted pumpkin and sun-dried tomatoes. Sprinkle with pine nuts. Ready to serve.
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