24 February, 2011

Buckwheat Banana Porridge

People are creatures of habit when it comes to foods and food routines. For instance, many like the same breakfast every morning. Lunches can be the same for 2 or 3 days in a row. However, dinner has to be different every night. Any logic behind it? Nope! Does it make sense? Nope!
Recently I got tired of my breakfast routine, which I had for at least 6 months, if not a year. I actually can't remember when I last had something else for breakfast than fresh fruit with yogurt and granola.
Time for change has come, and I had to look out for an alternative. While I bake muffins and breakfast cakes at least twice a week, I don't like them for breakfast. I need something not too solid that can to be eaten with a spoon.
While this buckwheat banana porridge will probably not last several months on my breakfast table, it is surely a good one to have in the coldish winter and early spring months. My idea was to create a gluten-free and vegan breakfast porridge. Despite its name, buckwheat does not belong to the wheat group and is gluten free. It has quite a strong and distinctive taste, very much on the nutty and earthy side.
For the first time ever, I used and tasted soy milk. This porridge is surely a good place to use it. Cooking the buckwheat in soy milk gives it a lovely creaminess. Adding a pinch of cinnamon adds to the warmy winter feeling that this breakfast provides. It's sweetened with raw mashed banana only. The chopped nuts add some crunch. On the whole, a filling breakfast, yet light on the stomach. A good meal if you have a long day ahead and surely a good thing to eat before long runs.

1/2 cup uncooked buckwheat
1 cup soy milk 
pinch of cinnamon
1 ripe banana mashed
2 tablespoons almonds, chopped

Serves 2
In a small pot, combine buckwheat grains, soy milk and cinnamon. Cover with a lid, bring to a boil, then let simmer on low heat until liquid has been absorbed and buckwheat is soft and chewy, about 10 minutes.
In a serving bowl, stir in the mashed banana into the cooked buckwheat. Sprinkle with chopped almonds. Serve immediately.

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17 February, 2011

Coconut Almond Oat Crunchies

My son has got an International Day at school next week. Some weeks ago, I, not thinking at all, volunteered to contribute to the German stall with two kinds of German cookies. What was I thinking? Have I gone crazy? Being more able to oversee my schedule of the next week, I realize that I will have no time whatsoever to bake not even one batch of any cookies. Instead of baking I will be busy running half marathons, going to see the Dubai Tennis Championships, planning, celebrating and surviving my daughter's birthday incl. kids party, perhaps a chocolate themed baking session with fellow Dubai food bloggers, cleaning the house thoroughly as I will be having my grandparents from Germany here to visit.... I am telling this a neighbor this afternoon as I am close to falling into depression about this.
- Hang on, she says, your grandparents are coming from Germany? Can't they bring German cookies?
- YES, YES, YES, they can. What a brilliant idea!!!
- Which airline are they coming with? If they come with Emirates Airlines they will be allowed 30kgs luggage each.
- Enough space for German cookies to feed a whole school with!!
Off I go to ask my grandparents this huge favor, and my 85-year old granddad is raiding all supermarkets and grocery stores as we speak. Apparently, several kilos of cookies have been purchased already. My grandparents seem to be more than happy to help me out with this.  Big sigh of relief. Life is good again. The store-bought cookies won't be as healthy as my homemade ones, but International Day is not the day I need to convert the school to healthier eating habits. Will try that some other time.
Meanwhile, my poor family will be deprived of any cookies for the next few days and will be left with what's left of these amazing Coconut Almond Oat Crunchies. They are something between a cake and a cookie, but most importantly crunchy. An amazing combination of coconut, almonds and oat in handy little square shapes makes me raid the cookie tin very often. My current favorite cookie!!!

2/3 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup rolled oats
2/3 cup fresh grated coconut (plus more for sprinkling)
1/2 cup almonds, finely chopped
1/3 cup palm sugar

1/3 cup melted butter
2 teaspoons maple syrup or honey
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons boiling water

Yields 20 
Preheat oven to 165C/325F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. 

In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, coconut, almonds and palm sugar. Set aside.
Melt the butter. Take off the heat and stir in maple syrup. Set aside.
In a small bowl or cup combine baking soda with boiling water, then add to the butter mixture. Mix wet ingredients with dry ingredients until well combined.

Press the batter into the baking sheet, about 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle with grated coconut. 
Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly brown. Remove from the oven and cut into squares. Return crunchies into the switched-off oven, and let them dry out for another 10 minutes.
Remove from the tin, once they are cooled completely.
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13 February, 2011

Pear and Spinach Salad with Halloumi

I need to get  this little Pear and Spinach Salad out to the world before it is too late. To me, it is the perfect starter salad for a Valentine's dinner: Warm and fruity pears, crunchy and fresh baby spinach topped with salty Halloumi, sprinkled with crunchy almonds and a drizzle of honey mustard vinaigrette. It is so exquisite and light in flavor, and the warm char-grilled pears and Halloumi are just right in the cold winter season. You'll have this and wonder why you don't have it every night because  it is very simple and pretty quick to make.
I love the combination of sweet and savory in a salad. They complement each other beautifully. Alright, enough said: Let's get this recipe out to the world......

2 pears
200g/80z Halloumi cheese, sliced
4 cups torn spinach leaves
1/4 cup almonds, toasted and chopped
1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced

Honey Mustard Vinaigrette
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons mustard
1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1-2 tablespoons water (optional)

Serves 4
Start this salad by making the dressing. In a small bowl, combine all ingredients except the water. Add water until desired texture is reached. Set aside.

Heat a dry char-grill pan until hot. Place sliced Halloumi cheese to the pan and cook about 2 minutes on each side, until charred. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Cut each pear into 8 slices, then char-grill on each side for 2 minutes, or until charred. 

In a salad bowl, combine spinach leaves, red onion, pear slices and Halloumi. Drizzle over with Honey Mustard dressing. Sprinkle with chopped almonds. Serve immediately, while pears and Halloumi are still warm.
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10 February, 2011

Chili Con Carne

Winter (Def.) = the coldest season of the year, between autumn and spring. At the winter solstice, the days are shortest and the nights are longest, with days lengthening as the season progresses after the solstice.

Comfort (Def.) = Encouragement; solace; consolation in trouble; also, that which affords consolation.

Comfort Food (Def.) = foods consumed to achieve some level of improved emotional status, whether to relieve negative psychological affect or to increase positive. More generally, comfort food can be defined as food that brings some form or measure of comfort, sense of well-being, or easy satisfaction. Such food choices may consist of the simple and familiar. Dishes may be warm and filling such as a dish made with a staple food... Some definitions suggest that home-prepared dishes are most typical.

Chili Con Carne (Def.) = Winter Comfort Food of American-Mexican origins.
There is controversy about what ingredients are allowed in a Chili, whether tomatoes or even beans belong into it. Followers of the original Chili recipes (which have chilis and beef only as their main ingredient) will cringe when they see this recipe: beans, tomatoes, carrots and bell peppers. I like this vegetablized version of this warming winter dish. Apart from adding color to it, the whole dish becomes lighter. We love to to wrap the Chili in some homemade Whole Wheat Chapatis, topped with fresh chopped cucumbers and tomatoes and a big dollop of yogurt or sour cream. --------------------------------------------------------------------

(Adapted slightly from Gourmet, Feb 1990)

1 lb/500g ground beef
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon dry oregano flakes
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder (up to 1 tablespoon, depending on how hot you like it)
1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups cooked kidney beans
1 can chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup beef or vegetable stock
1 green bell pepper, deseeded and chopped

Serves 6
In a large pot, heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are softened. Add garlic and carrots, Cook for one minute while stirring. Add the minced beef and cook over moderate heat, until it is no longer pink. Stir to break up bigger lumps. Add chili powder, cumin, paprika, oregano and cook the mixture, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add tomato sauce and broth. Bring mixture to a boil, and simmer covered, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 30 minutes. Add kidney beans and bell peppers. Season with salt and black pepper to taste and simmer uncovered, for another 10-15 minutes, or until the bell peppers are tender. Serve hot. Tastes better the next day.

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07 February, 2011

Chili Chocolate Graham Crackers

I think it was Nigella Lawson who once said that if she feels a cold or flu approaching, she'll have a nice hot curry. If the curry is not able to kill the cold in its start, then it's meant to come.
Well, the male part of my family is flat on their backs with some cold bug. Yesterday, I made chicken soup and served peeled orange slices and hot tea. To no avail. Today is day 2, and I have been busy being the nurse who is all over the place making sure that the various patients are happy and getting enough TLC. Perhaps Nigella was right, and it's the hot spices that chase the bugs out of the system.
Now when my family is sick, rules are not as strict: that applies mainly to TV times and sweets consumption. With regards to the sweets consumption, I try and push in my home-made ones. It often works. These chili-flecked graham crackers might even do the trick of getting the spicy spices in that are supposed to chase the flu bugs out, while serving as a sweet nibble at the same time. Well, hope is the last to die. What's that other saying? A cold - with treatment it takes a week. Untreated, about 7 days. Well, so be it.
These cookies, however, are delicious for anyone. With good and natural ingredients only, they are good for anyone healthy or sick. If you are not sure about the chili addition to these cookies, just omit it from the topping or start with just the tiniest amount, and work you way up to your personal taste. These crackers are one of the crispiest cookies I have ever made at home. The hint of chili make them something very special.
adapted slightly from Eating Well

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

1/4 cup palm sugar
3 tablespoon cold unsalted butter

1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoon milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping (only half of it is needed)
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon chili powder (or cayenne pepper)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Yields 15-20
Pulse flour, oats, cocoa, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a food processor until thoroughly mixed. Add palm sugar and blend again. Sprinkle butter cubes over the mixture. Pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal.
In a small bowl stir milk, honey and vanilla in a small cup until the honey is dissolved. Drizzle the honey mixture into the food processor. Process just until the dough holds together.
 Shape the dough into a flat disc. Wrap with cling wrap and refrigerate until cold but still supple enough to roll out, about 30 minutes.

Preheat to 175C/350°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Remove cooled dough from fridge. Roll the dough between two sheets of parchment paper until it is 1/8 to 1/16 inch thick and as even as possible from the center to the edges. Flip the paper and dough over once or twice to check for deep wrinkles; if necessary, peel off the parchment and smooth it over the dough before continuing. Peel off the top sheet of parchment. Prick the dough all over with a fork.

Sprinkle the dough evenly with tiny pinches of salt (about 1/16 teaspoon total). Mix 1 tablespoon sugar with chili powder and cinnamon. Sprinkle the dough evenly with the spiced sugar.
Slide the dough onto a large baking sheet. Bake until the Graham crackers are just starting to brown around the edges, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool on the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Cut into squares, diamonds or rectangles. Let cool completely before storing; the Grahams crisp up when completely cool.
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03 February, 2011

Apple Prune Bread

Which three foods would you like to have with you if you were stranded on a desert island? I was thinking about that today at lunchtime, as I was baking yet another variety of an apple bread. Anyway, two things came immediately to my mind: apples and red wine. Several hours later, I still haven't decided on a third one. I've got bread and cheese on my mind, but none of them is fully convincing.
I think, there is no other fruit, vegetable, food, dish, beverage that I know I will enjoy as much as apples and red wine until the end of my days, on a daily basis.
Therefore, another apple bread. I have been infatuated with prunes lately. A combination of both in a loaf cake had to be inevitable. The result is inevitably gorgeous: fruity apples together with tangy prunes and crunchy walnuts and a hint of cinnamon just have to be a no-brainer. Good ingredients, great flavor, good for you. Bon Appetit!

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup prunes, pitted and chopped

2 egg whites
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup palm sugar

1 cup grated apple (ca. 2 medium apples)

Yields 1 loaf
Preheat oven to 175C/350F. Grease loaf tin or line with  parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Stir in chopped prunes and walnuts. Set aside.
In a smaller bowl, beat egg whites, Stir in olive oil and palm sugar until well combined. Fold in grated apple. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
Transfer batter to prepared loaf tin. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until cake tester comes out clean.
Let cool completely on wire racks.
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