31 January, 2011

Marinated Aubergines with Mint and Pine Nuts

Maintaining a food blog is quite a challenge when you have a stomach bug and no real appetite. I usually have two or three recipes plus pictures on the shelf that I can use. But even if I don't have to deal with real food, I get picky on what to put onto the blog. My current stomach bug doesn't allow sweet things. For nothing in the world I could share a cookie recipe with you today.

However, my stomach bug allows savory vegetables. I had enough energy to cook something up, and even try a new recipe. Aubergines are actually not very high on my list of favorite vegetables. I find them too tasteless, sometimes bitter, and don't really like the texture when they are cooked. When I came across the idea of marinating them before roasting in the oven, I was hooked on. Today seemed the right day to try it. Even if the recipe would turn out inedible, my stomach bug would probably be as happy without lunch.
Further motivated by using my homegrown basil and mint, I started cooking. And after taking some pictures, polished off the whole dish that is stated below to be enough for 2-4 people. It was good. The key is not to use too much vinegar, as it can be quite overpowering. The amount of marinade seems little but it is enough to season the vegetables.
I can imagine this aubergine salad a good side dish for any BBQs or potlucks. Bon appetit!


2 medium eggplants (ca. 1lb/450g)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chopped

2 spring onions, chopped
1 handful fresh mint leaves, roughly torn
1/4 cup pine nuts

Serves 2-4
Cut the eggplants into halves lengthwise, then slice into 1/2 inch slices.
In a small bowl, combine vinegar with olive oil, garlic, basil. Season with salt and pepper.
Pour the mixture over the prepared eggplant and toss until well coated. Cover and let stand for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200C/400F.
Lightly grease baking sheet. Spread the marinated eggplants in one layer onto the sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until aubergines are tender.
In the meantime, roast the pine nuts in a dry pan over medium-low heat for a 4-5 minutes. Transfer cooked eggplants to serving bowl and toss with chopped spring onions, mint leaves and toasted pine nuts. Serve warm or at room temperature.
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28 January, 2011

Spiced Cauliflower Apple Soup

Winter season is soup season. So far we didn't go much beyond our hearty Ribollita and my husband's all-time favorite creamy leek and potato soup. No adventures into new soup recipes yet this winter! That needed to be changed, for blog's reason.
I love quirky ingredients or a combination of those. When I came across a cauliflower apple soup recipe, my curiosity was awakened immediately. Mild cauliflower, sweet and fruity apples: how would you make that into an exciting soup? Spices. There are many curried soups out there, but I find that the curry often runs over the flavors of the vegetables. In this soup's case, the spices are fresh ginger and garam masala and a tiny bit of chili powder. Just enough to not drown the exquisite flavors of the cauliflower but add enough pungency to make this a lovely winter soup, while the sweetness of the apple remains intact.
A lovely soup that is ready in less than 30 minutes. A soup that can be made in advance and keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days.

4 cups cauliflower florets
1 cup apples, cored and chopped
1 cup sweet potato chopped
1/2 cup onions, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil

6 cups vegetable stock
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 inch piece fresh ginger, grated
salt and pepper to taste
chives for garnish
Serves 4
In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook until slightly softened, 3-5 minutes. Stir in fresh ginger, garam masala and chili powder. Cook for another minute. Add clauliflower florets, chopped apples and sweet potato. Pour in vegetable stock. Bring to boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes.
Let the soup cool a little. Then blend until smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle into serving bowls. Garnish with chives. Ready to serve.

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25 January, 2011

Orange-Scented Hazelnut Prune Truffles

I find there is two kinds of recipes. There are the ones with very long ingredients lists. Those dishes usually take a long time to prepare. However, there will provide layers of flavor, either by an extended combination of veggies, grains and/or meat/fish or by a long spices/herb list. The ingredients have to be weighed carefully against each other for everyone to come out by its best.
The other recipes have a very short ingredients list. You throw three or four ingredients together and there you go: food's ready. This pretty much applies to raw truffles: take one part dried fruits, one part ground nuts of your choice, a few tablespoons of your favorite sweetener and some flavoring. Process in a food processor and that's all it takes. To make them look pretty you can roll them in something powdery. What I also like is, that with these truffles there is so much space for variety. By just using different nuts or dried fruits or another flavoring you end up with a completely different truffle.
The Orange-Scented Hazelnut Prune Truffles are a variety of my Walnut Prune Truffles. The idea behind this creation was to make a low GI sweet. Therefore the dates had to go. In fact, I really liked the prunes in the other truffles which made me confident that I could use just them. So I just swapped the nut sort, used more prunes instead of a prune/date combo and and used orange zest instead of cocoa powder for flavoring. As you might have noticed (as this is the second orange-scented recipe in a row), I have a weakness for orange zest. It goes beautifully along the prune flavor, both dark and tart. Simply delicious. And good for you!

1 cup prunes, pitted
1 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons honey or agave syrup
1 tablespoon orange zest

ground hazelnuts
cocoa powder
desiccated coconut

*Chocolate Coating
2 oz/50g bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons butter

Yields 20-25
In a food processor, combine all ingredients. Pulse until mixture is well combined. Form cherry-sized balls out of the mixture. If it does not hold together, add a little water (no more than a teaspoon at a time) and pulse again in the food processor. Roll balls in preferred coating. Place in mini muffin liners. Keep in airtight container in the fridge. Leave at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.

Chocolate Coating
In a double bath, heat chocolate and butter until melted. Stir occasionally until well combined. Take off the heat and let cool a bit. Coat truffles by sticking a toothpick into a truffle. Then roll in chocolate or pour chocolate over the truffle with a spoon. Let become solid on parchment paper before placing in mini muffin liners.
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22 January, 2011

Orange-Scented Molasses Cake

Cake? Reason to celebrate? YES, YES, YES. I finished my first full marathon yesterday. Want to hear the full story? Read my marathon report here.
The hole that the exertion of the marathon left in my stomach and body, is actually more shouting for proteins and savory foods. In fact I have been stuffing myself with scrambled eggs and steaks in the 24 hours after the race.
However, a piece of cake always goes down well as dessert. The flavors of orange and molasses are both strong. They need to be balanced carefully to provide equal space for both of them. In the right balance they complement beautifully. The result is a lovely dark and rich flavor, hidden in a light cake.

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon orange zest, finely grated

1/4 cup palm sugar
75g/30z butter
1 egg
2 tablespoons unsulphured molasses
1/2 cup buttermilk

Royal Icing Topping (optional)
1 tablespoon egg white
4 tablespoons icing sugar

Yields on 20cm round cake
Preheat oven to 175C/350F. Grease or line 20cm/8inch spring form with parchment paper.

In a bowl, sift together flour, salt, cinnamon, baking soda and orange zest.

Grate the palm sugar. Then beat together sugar and butter until creamy. Stir in the egg, molasses and buttermilk until well combined. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Fill the batter into prepared spring form. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. Let cool completely.

Combine egg white and icing sugar until thick and creamy. Add more sugar if it seems to runny. Decorate cooled cake with the mixture. Use double the amount if you want to cover the whole cake.

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18 January, 2011

Barley and Grape Salad

Three more days!!!! On Friday I'll be running my first ever full marathon. Today I did my last training run, a leisurely 6k around the block. I am getting excited. And nervous! Three more days where I can get run over by a bus, break my legs while running after my kids, catch a cold or stomach bug...... My mind is playing tricks with me. Every little niggle in my limbs is magnified out of all proportion by my brain. Each sniffle feels like full blown flu coming on.
If someone told me that the marathon would be tomorrow instead of Friday, I'd be soooo ready.
No more running now until the actual race. I have always supported the theory of "less is more" in the last week before a race. Now I have to focus on food. CARBS, CARBS, CARBS is what I need now. Preferably of the lower GI sort. I'll give up my ONE glass of wine per evening for the last 48 hours before the race. And lots of water to be properly hydrated at the starting line.
The carb issue turns out to be one of my incognito New Year resolutions: to increase the amount of low GI foods in my diet. Those low GI food will provide a slow but even supply of energy to my muscles during those hours of the run. I have been stuffing myself with oats, beans, lentils, fruits and veggies.
In fact, it gives me huge pleasure to create salads out of low GI foods. I have put a lot of quinoa, buckwheat and barley into my salads lately.  All these grains have a substantially lower GI than rice (even brown rice), couscous or millet. Combined with any beans, lentils, raw fruit or veggies plus some dried fruit for natural sweetness and a generous sprinkle of toasted nuts and seeds will leave you full and happy for hours.
Well, we'll see on Friday if it helped me to finish a marathon. I will let you know. Watch this space.

PS: I pondered for some time if I should make it official, and I decided to tell you my goal times: I aim to finish this marathon in 4 hours. With 4h15min I'd still be very happy. And I should definitely be able to run it in 4h30min. Now you know!!

(Print Recipe)

1 cup hulled barley, uncooked

1/2 cup of cooked chickpeas
1/2 cup red grapes, cut into quarters
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
1 cup arugula leaves, roughly chopped

1/4 cup almonds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Serves 2-4

Cook barley in three cups of slightly water until tender, about 30 minutes. Rinse and drain. Set aside.

In a dry pan, toast sunflowers seeds over medium-low heat for about 3-5 minutes. Set aside. Then toast almonds for about 5-7 minutes. Let cool almonds and roughly chop. Set aside.

In a serving bowl, combine barley, chickpeas, grapes, apricots, arugula, almonds and sunflower seeds.

Mix olive oil with balsamic vinegar and pour over the salad. Stir until evenly coated. Serve immediately or store in airtight container in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
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15 January, 2011

Thyme-Scented Oatcakes

I love watching food programs on TV. One program that has almost turned into an addiction is Come Dine With Me on BBC. Four or five amateur chefs competing against each other by hosting a dinner party for the other contestants. Each competitor then rates the host's performance. The winner gets £1,000 cash. The contestants are of the people-next-door type, although the combination of people adds the zest. The comments of the sarcastic narrator make it a true comedy.
I watch it for easy entertainment more than for the actual cooking. However, I couldn't help noticing that many British people seem to like things mashed. Why on earth would you mash peas, carrots, turnips, beans, cauliflower? It's mashed and then the mash is put next to the fish, or meat. That's it.
I asked my husband why he thinks the mashing was so popular. His reply was that by mashing you can hide overcooked or undercooked food. Is that so? Please, enlighten me.
I hope I don't sound too critical, as there is British food that I absolutely relish: oatcakes for example. I was quite happy with the store-bought ones until I saw a recipe for thyme-scented oatcakes on My Custard Pie, a fellow Dubai food blog. The ingredients list couldn't be any shorter. All ingredients are as healthy as can be.  And I love the fact that these oatcakes do not contain any flour of sorts.
So off I went to get the thyme. And decided to make them, when I had only 30 minutes left before I had to leave the house for some errand. I got them done in that time and they turned out beautifully: these crackers are all oats and thyme, just as the ingredients list promises. They keep crispy for days. And that means a lot, especially here in Dubai where high humidity makes every crispy cookie into something rubber-like within 24 hours. These oatcakes will be a hit on any cheeseboard. Or as an appetizer with cream cheese and smoked salmon, or whatever savory topping you prefer. A definite keeper!!!
adapted from My Custard Pie

(Print Recipe)

200g/8oz fine oatmeal (I used stone-ground medium oatmeal)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves 
6-8 tablespoons boiling water

Yields 10-15 oatcakes
Preheat the oven to 180C/375F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
Measure the oatmeal, oil, salt and 2/3rds of the fresh thyme into the bowl of a food processor. Whizz until everything is combined well.  While keeping the motor running, pour in the boiling water, one tablespoon at a time. You might need less than 8 tablespoons. So be careful from the 5th spoonful on.  After 30-45 seconds the mixture will begin to come together and look sticky and thick (switch off, scrape down and repeat if it doesn’t). Add the remaining thyme and pulse a few times to chop it roughly.
Gather the dough up into a ball, with your hands or a spatula. Place on a floured board and roll out, while still warm, to about 2mm thick. With a cookie cutter, cut out rounds or any any other shape and place on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 15-17 minutes until lightly colored.  Cool on a wire rack then store in an airtight container.
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13 January, 2011

Curried Bulgur with Carrots and Raisins

It's winter finally in Dubai. It's so cold that one wants to wear long pants and long-sleeve shirts and sometimes even socks. This is as bad as it gets. Most Europeans and North Americans will laugh about this. But I am telling you: after almost 7 years in Dubai, one of the hottest places in the world, one becomes a sissy when temperatures drop to 20C/68F or below and a cold wind blows.

We usually spend winter in Dubai, as it is actually pleasant. I hear my my mom in Germany complain about the weather all year round (this is a very German disease: weather is always an issue, no matter how hot, cold, wet, dry or just right it is).  I haven't seen snow in years. And I do not possess proper winter clothing anymore. I don't long to be back to dark, cold and wet German winter days.
However, I appreciate winter meals: warming soups, spicy dishes and of course the sweet stuff that always goes down well when it's cold.

This bulgur dish is one of those: it's spicy, it's sweet, it's comforting. It's something that you have in a bowl on the sofa with a blanket over you legs. I found it in Mark Bittmann's How To Cook Everything.  I made it last winter for the first time, and rediscovered the recipe this winter while paging through the book again. It is simply something that will always appeal to you on colder days. Bon Appetit!
adapted from Mark Bittmann's How To Cook Everything

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 cup coarse grind bulgur
2 large carrots, grated
1 3/4 cups vegetable stock or water
1/4 cup blanched slivered almonds
1/4 cup raisins
salt and pepper to taste

Serves 4
Heat oil over medium heat in a medium sized pot (that can be covered later). Add chopped onion and cook, stirring regularly, until it is soft, about 5 minutes.
Add curry powder and cook for another minute. Stir in bulgur until it is well coated with the oil. Add grated carrots and stir. Pour over with water/vegetable stock and stir in raisins  and almonds. Cover and cook on very low heat  for about 10 minutes. Take off the heat and let sit for another 15 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

How To Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food
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10 January, 2011

Seaweed Sesame Squares

Do you watch food channels on TV? I love them. It's an acquired taste, at least in my case. When I met my now husband years ago, my cooking skills didn't go much beyond making a cheese sandwich. So when I learned that my husband loved to watch BBC Food or Food Network, it struck me as very strange and not particularly in his favor. Fortunately, there were enough other good things about him, that made me oversee this food channel obsession.

Several years fast forward, I love to watch food channels myself. When I am too tired to watch a  movie or clever documentary, I switch on to some food channel. One of my favorite programs these days is CHOPPED on Food Network. In CHOPPED, contestants are presented with a mystery basket that contains a quirky combination of three ingredients for either starter, entree or dessert. The other day, contestants were asked to make an entree out of a whole turkey, kale and marshmallows. Get the drift? Originality and creativity is being asked for, and although I will probably never find out, how turkey stuffed with kale and marshmallow tastes like, I love to watch what these chefs do with the ingredients.

Now here is my mystery basket: sesame seeds, seaweed and maple syrup. Make some utterly delicious seed bars!! Who would have thought of putting seaweed and maple syrup into the same pot. Add some nuts and seeds and I promise you, it works.
It's not my idea, I experimented with recipes that I found here and here. Even my much loved Flavor Bible didn't have an answer to this flavor combination. This bar will surely be one of my all-time favorites: a deliciously sweet seed bar with all the good and nutritious things that come naturally with sesame, nuts, seaweed and maple syrup.

1/4 cup white sesame seeds
1/4 cup black sesame seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup almonds, chopped

1 1/2 sheets Nori seaweed, cut into almond size slivers
1/4 cup maple syrup

Yields 8-10 squares
Preheat oven to 160C/325F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. 

Combine all seeds and the chopped almonds in bowl. In a large dry pan over medium-low heat, roast seeds and nuts for 5-7 minutes, or until fragrant. Stir regularly to provide even roasting. Transfer back to bowl. Stir in Nori slivers.
Pour maple syrup over the seaweed seed mixture and stir until mixture is evenly coated and sticky.

Use the prepared baking sheet as surface and fill large cookie cutters with the batter. Press down the batter. with a teaspoon or your fingers. Gently remove the cutter to keep the bars in shape. Repeat until all batter is used up.

Bake for 15-20 minutes. Let cool a little on baking sheet. Then carefully remove bars from the parchment paper. They might still be sticky underneath. Transfer to cooling rack, or simply turn bars upside down to coll and dry completely.

The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs         What to Drink with What You Eat: The Definitive Guide to Pairing Food with Wine, Beer, Spirits, Coffee, Tea - Even Water - Based on Expert Advice from America's Best Sommeliers         The Flavor Thesaurus: A Compendium of Pairings, Recipes and Ideas for the Creative Cook
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06 January, 2011

Roasted Pumpkin Pomegranate Salad

Two more weeks to go until my first full marathon. Last week I had my longest training run of about 37k/23miles. I ran it with a fellow food blogger from Dubai. As I do all of my training runs on my own (which can be getting very boring on the long runs), this was a most welcome change of scenery. One was pulling the other through tired phases. We chatted along for about 90 minutes, and ran the rest with just a few remarks every now and then. I feel confident that I can run the distance on race day. And the fact that I could do another very fast run (actually race) of 7k/4miles just 48 hours later, gave me even more confidence.

Now it's tapering time. Which means less and less running and a focus on good food. Lots of protein this week, to help recover the torn muscle tissue from last week's long run. And otherwise salads. I will never get tired of combining new and different veggies in a salad. Only recently I started adding a new dimension to my ways of eating: food combining.
Different foods require different digestive environments, e.g acid OR alkaline. If such foods are combined in one meal, the digestive juices neutralize each other and, therefore, cannot be properly digested. The result can be bloating, gassiness or tiredness. Foods will take much longer to pass through the digestive tract.

A common example for this are starchy foods (rice, potatoes) combined with protein (meat, fish).
I have tried to cut out one or the other from my dinners, and either have rice with veggies only OR combine fish/meats with veggies. It works great for me. I feel full after the meal, but not lazy or worn down. That's why there is even more reason to get exciting and tasty salads and side dishes on the table.

This salad consist of roasted pumpkin and carrots to provide sweetness, combined with some leafy green arugula, fresh and fruity pomegranate arils topped with feta cheese. Add some toasted nuts if you like. An utterly delicious salad that can be made in advance and will be good for a healthy lunchbox too.

2 cups pumpkin or butternut squash, cubed
1 large carrot, halved lengthwise, then sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup pomegranate arils
1 cup arugula, loosely packed
1/4 cup crumbly feta cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Serves 2-4
Preheat oven to 200C/400F.
Toss pumpkin cubes and carrot slices in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Spread out on baking sheet in single layer. Roast in  the oven for about 20 minutes. Turn veggies over after 10 minutes to provide even roasting.
Cut the pumpkin cubes in halves. In a serving bowl, combine pumpkin, carrots, arugula and pomegranate. Combine olive oil and balsamic vinegar for the dressing. Pour over salad and toss. Sprinkle with feta cheese crumbles.
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04 January, 2011

Top 10 Favorites 2010

I'd like to highlight my personal favorites of 2010: foods that astounded me, foods that I cooked countless times, foods that I'd serve to guests, foods that I simply love. Here is my personal Top 10 of 2010 in alphabetical order:

Almond Honey Cake: just three ingredients make this utterly delicious cake. Gluten-free and dairy-free.


Avocado Chocolate Truffles: dessert, raw, vegan. What else can you wish for? One of my favorite no-guilt desserts that comes with all the health benefits of avocado, cocoa and nuts.

Cocoa Orange Granola Bars: I simply love the combination of chocolate and orange. It gives me the impression of a delicate grown-up dessert. At the same time, these granola bars are good for any mid-morning or afternoon snack. 
Fava Bean and Arugula Salad with Parmesan: a heavenly combination of green veggies: sweet fava beans, bitter arugula leaves, crunchy celery and fresh mint topped with salty parmesan cheese. As good as it can get with the green stuff.
Indian Spice Nuts: I don't think nuts can get any tastier than this: sweet, salty AND spicy with a heavenly spice mixture. Good at any time of the day. 

Prawn Curry with Coconut and Lemongrass: my favorite seafood curry recipe of of the year: lemongrass and coconut work wonders to enhance a classic curry recipe. 

Quinoa Porridge: If I had the time, I'd have this for breakfast everyday. A lovely vegan dish with protein-rich quinoa, coconut milk and chopped pistachios.


Ribollita: Within a few months, this soup has become one of the families' all time favorites. Spiced up with bacon and parmesan cheese, this bean stew goes down  well especially in the cold months of the year.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Goat Cheese: delicious roasted butternut squash spiced with divine flavors like chili, garlic and thyme topped with roasted veggies, pine nuts and goat cheese. Do I need to say more? 

Sesame Oat Bread Sticks: Bread sticks made with olive oil, oats and sesame seeds. Simply divine. I made these bread sticks from the best ever pie crust recipe.

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01 January, 2011

Apple Quinoa Cake

Happy New Year to all of you!!!
I want to start this year's blog with a dessert, because this is how I started 2011. With dessert.
As far as I can remember (and things tend to get blurry after such a long time), I hadn't been out in the evening for 3 (yes, three) years, since my little daughter was born. For New Year's Eve, we were invited to the house of good friends. It felt good, really good to be out again after such a long time. We were treated to the most amazing food I have had in a long time. Joao and Carina, this one is for you:  you really excelled yourselves. We had a a fabulous time. Only downside was that, after 3 years of absence, our party endurance wasn't what it used to be.
As we were busy eating starters and entree until almost midnight, the hosts decided to serve dessert in the New Year. And what a great way to start the New Year: homemade ice creams, cakes, flans, ...... I rolled home after that.
I want to make this my motto of the year: we all deserve dessert. Here is my first contribution, not as fancy as what I got spoiled with last night, but nevertheless a dessert that is in tune with the spirit of this blog: a delicious, healthy, vegan and nutritious treat that has a quirky ingredient: cooked quinoa. I tend to think that once you turn a dessert into a healthier food that is tasty at the same time, everything else will fall into place by itself.


3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 large apple, cored and coarsely grated
1/4 cup palm sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup cooked quinoa (1/3 cup uncooked quinoa)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons sunflower seeds
1/4 cup raisins

Cinnamon Oat Topping
1/4 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon palm sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil

Serves 8 
Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Grease or line a loaf tin with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, palm sugar, baking powder, soda, ginger, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, mix the grated apple, oil, quinoa, vanilla, sunflower seeds and raisins. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until combined.

Pour into prepared pan and smooth the top. Combine all ingredients for the topping and sprinkle them on top of the cake batter. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until cake tester comes out clean. Let cool before cutting into slices.
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