25 September, 2011

Apple Lemon Honey Cake

I couldn't wait to share today's recipe with you: Apple Lemon Honey Cake. It's overdue as it is the only cake in demand here in this house at the moment. When I tried to sneak in some chestnut flour muffins, I was told that I should rather make THAT apple cake again. Pleeeeaaase!!!

I can't blame my family: this is the moistest, freshest cake I have (ever) baked (in a long time). I didn't only make cake out of it, the amounts of ingredients mentioned below in the recipe make beautiful muffins too.

And how could I deny it: it's gluten-free and sweetened with honey only. Good enough to have for breakfast. It's a cake that doesn't look as good as it tastes. But it doesn't need frosting or custards or anything on top. It's perfect just by itself. Keeps well in the fridge and just doesn't lose its moisture. I seldomly say that about my health-freak foods: but this one is highly recommendable. Bon Appetit!

2 cups almond flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt

2 eggs
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons lemon zest

1 apple

powdered sugar for garnish (optional)

Serves 8 (or makes 12 muffins)
Preheat oven to 180C/375F. Line or grease cake pan with removable bottom or muffin moulds.

In a bowl, combine almond flour, baking soda and salt.
In a another bowl, beat the eggs lightly. Stir in honey, yogurt and zest.
Combine wet and dry ingredients.

Core the apple, cut into eight wedges, then slice each wedge thinly. Gently fold the apple pieces into the batter. Transfer batter to prepared cake pan.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until top is golden brown and cake tester comes out clean. Let cool on wire racks. Sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving (optional).
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21 September, 2011

Spiced Flax Balls

I think I can say this now as the ends seems to be near: We survived yet another Dubai summer with scorching heats and unbearable humidity. Every year I dread the summer. And every year it is over before I know. In those seven years that we have been living here, we surely learned how to deal with it. You never get used to the heat though. You rather accept the summer as a necessary evil that comes back every year.
Life has come back to town, everyone is back from their summer holidays, kids are back in school. Outdoor activities and events start again. Like my running season.

Tonight I am running my first race, a 5k run. A good distance to start the season. I'll be honest, my training runs in the the summer have hardly been that long. It was just too hot. I managed quite a few 25-minute runs at a very relaxed pace since August, but that doesn't quite prepare you for a 5k race. I haven't run a 5k race since 2006, so I wonder if I have improved ever since. Weather conditions were similar 5 years ago. The heat definitely influences the finishing times. The race starts at 8pm. At that time, we will probably have at least 35C/95F degrees outdoor temperature and I just hope for low humidity. So I am curious to see if I can do a PB tonight. 25min 05sec are to beat.

I have plans a running section on this blog for my race reports and any other running-related blurbs that may come to my mind. I just need a quite day or two to put it up.

Until then, I'd like to share my current favorite running fuel with you: the Spiced Flax Balls from Leanne's blog Healthful Pursuit. Power balls that I grab whenever I am on the run, either to work, the daily errands, before my training runs, or to satisfy my sweet tooth after dinner on the sofa. I usually keep them frozen, like Leanne suggested. I love it when they slowly thaw in my hands and in my mouth as I nibble them. Quite honestly, I am addicted to them and it's hard to believe they are actually full of goodness. That's how nice they are!

adapted from Healthful Pursuit

(Print Recipe)

1 cup whole almond
1/2 cup ground flax seeds

1/2 cup dates, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/4 cup desiccated coconut
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

1-2 tablespoons water

Yields 25-30
Place almonds in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add remaining ingredients (without the water) and pulse a few times. Check if the mixture sticks together when pressing between two fingers. If not pulse again a few times. Check again. If it still doesn't stick add a tablespoon of water. Pulse again. Check stickiness. Repeat if necessary.
Once it sticks together, roll mixture into walnut-sized balls. Wrap in cling wrap and keep in fridge, or in the freezer for later use.
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18 September, 2011

7 Links Challenge

This is my 300th recipe post on this blog. Who would have thought!
For about three decades, my mom must have thought I'd never learn to cook. One of her favorite stories to tell family and friends is what I used to dish up when she came to visit me while I was still at university in Berlin. These stories, of course, would always go on my expense. But I must be honest, I couldn't cook. Period. I lived off cheese sandwiches and apples.
Now here we are with a big round number on my own food blog: I take this occasion to accept the 7 Link Challenge from Sonia, The Healthy Foodie. More than two years of blogging and close to 300 recipes are worth digging in the past. Here are the rules:

  1. Blogger is nominated to take part
  2. Blogger publishes his/her 7 links on his/her blog – 1 link for each category.
  3. Blogger nominates up to 5 more bloggers to take part.
  4. These bloggers publish their 7 links and nominate another 5 more bloggers
  5. And so it goes on!
Here are my winners of the respective categories:

Most Beautiful Post
Asian Cucumber Salad
I am voting this my most beautiful post because I love the picture: enough detail, good depth of field, good food styling. Love the green background. There are quite a few foods that are not easy to photograph. I think, cucumber salad is one of them.  I am very critical of my pictures. This is one of very few (if not the only one), that I consider (almost) perfect.

Most Popular Post
That's an easy one, because I just have to check my stats. I must admit it came a long, organic way. Only recently it overtook the Almond Honey Cake which had been leading from the moment I published it.

Most Controversial Post
I am not sure if any of my recipes or posts are controversial. But the Sesame Seaweed Squares are by far the recipe with the quirkiest ingredients list: seaweed, sesame seeds and maple syrup.

Most Helpful Post
 Salted Lupini Beans
Another post where the stats prove my point: Many people who Google for Lupini Beans end up on my site. It seems to be a snack that is totally unknown in many countries. In other places it is served as street food or in pubs. No-one seems to make it at home. Here you find the recipe.

Post whose success surprised me
Quinoa Granola Bars
 I was telling about my 85-year-old granddad in this post who had just visited me from Germany and actually watched me shooting the pictures for these granola bars. His outlook on life is amazing. Many people commented on this. A very pleasant surprise.

Post that didn’t get the attention it deserved
This recipe to me ticks all the boxes: it's raw, it's healthy, it's sugar-free. It can be easily made gluten-free. It's easy to make. Most people who come to my site are looking for these kind of recipes. This one never really cut it though.

Post I am most proud of
Prawn Curry with Coconut and Lemongrass
My kitchen confidence still wobbles every now and then when I try new dinner recipes. This prawn curry, however, is an absolute hit. I wowed weekday-after-work husband and weekend dinner guests with it. Alright, it's not my concoction, but this recipe is absolutely amazing. What adds to my pride about this recipe is the picture. Apart from cucumber salads, curries are also very difficult to photograph. I thought I didn't do too bad with my picture.

Alright, and here are my 5 nominees whose 7 Links I'd love to see:

Zoe of Zomt Bakes
Jenn of Jenn Cuisine
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15 September, 2011

Raw Pea Basil Hummus

Crackers and dips are my current favorite convenience food. The convenience comes from the fact that I can make a big batch in advance (both crackers and dip) and then have it as I feel  hungry (usually for lunch) or as a snack in the afternoon over several days. The whole cracker/dip passion was started by my son who demands crackers, carrots and chickpea hummus in his lunchbox.

I have been experimenting with different flour/seed combinations in my crackers, and I always have an open mind for new dips. I was immediately intrigued when I first heard of a raw green pea hummus. I have always liked the raw factor in foods. Not only because vitamins and minerals are staying intact, but also because it results in very few dirty dishes. Usually one bowl to mix ingredients, and that's it.

While I was a little in doubt if a raw pea hummus would be just a tad to sweet, the combination of sweet peas with basil sounded truly promising to me. The ingredients list is incredibly easy, and basil is growing like weed in my garden. In fact, my basil plants have become bushes.

So off I went to dirty my one bowl. The resulting dip would have been worth many more dirty dishes, I promise. This pea basil dip is so refreshing, healthy, light. A welcome dip change for every now and then, for someone like me who has been living off chickpea hummus for several years.
slightly adapted from The Mommy Bowl

2 cups peas, fresh or thawed
2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, chopped

Serves 6

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Add water to achieve desired consistency. Serve immediately or store in the fridge for up to 48 hours.
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12 September, 2011

Indian Summer Stew

Do you sometimes buy fruit or vegetables because of its color?  I find myself putting yellow and orange stuff into the basket. Mandarins, oranges, butternut squash is what I buy by the kilo these days. It's not quite in season (and will never be in season here in Dubai anyway), but I am craving autumn and winter fruit. It's probably my unconscious self telling me it had enough of the summer heat, humidity and sweating.

I felt like having something spiced, so I went to search for Moroccan or Indian butternut squash recipes. And I find the Indian Summer Stew on The Food Network. How can one not like this? Is it Indian Summer - Stew or an Indian - Summer Stew? The ingredients list is incredibly non-demanding and I could start cooking the soup without even going to the shops.

The result is an incredible soup with so many dimensions that I like: The dal gives the soup a lovely thickness, but still retains some bite. The butternut adds sweetness and is heavenly in combination with the coconut. The spices round it all up and keep the soup together without overpowering the dal, butternut and coconut. I found that the soup gets even better after reheating. A new favorite of mine that will surely make onto my Autumn Favorite list. 
slightly adapted from The Food Network

(Print Recipe)

1 cup yellow split peas (mung dal)
2 1/2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 tomato, diced
1/2 cup fresh, frozen, or dried shredded coconut (I used dried shredded)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
5 cups water (or more to achieve a more soup-ish consistency)

2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves

Serves 6-8
Rinse the split peas in a couple changes of water.

In a large soup pot, combine the squash, drained split peas, tomato, coconut, turmeric, cumin, and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, and then simmer, covered, 20 minutes. Remove the cover and simmer another 10 minutes.

To temper: In a small skillet, warm the coconut oil until shimmering. Add the mustard seeds and when they stop popping, add the red pepper flakes, garlic, and salt. Swirl the skillet so the contents cook evenly, and cook another 10 seconds. Then pour the contents of the skillet into the soup, along with the salt. Spoon a ladle full of soup back into the skillet (it will sizzle, be careful!), and pour back into the soup pot.
Adjust the seasonings, to taste. Garnish with chopped cilantro.
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08 September, 2011

Orange Date Granola

After more than 2 months of summer holidays, I forgot what it was like to get up early every morning and get my son get ready for school on time. He started school last week. The first week is done. I am exhausted. I am sleep-deprived. I am so glad it's weekend now. I can't wait for their next holidays. In fact, I checked the school calendar: I have to wait two months until they have mid-term break. I'll be a walking zombie by then.
The only good thing is that the days are longer. Just after 7am my boys are out of the house. During holidays our day would only slowly start between 8 and 9am. I've got 1-2 hours extra each day, and I can feel it.

Granola is my staple breakfast, and I never get tired of trying out new flavor combinations. The date harvest season has been in full swing their dark sweet flavor. A bit like molasses. In combination with orange zest you need no more sweeteners or spices. Perfect for my granola.
In fact, I stopped adding dried fruit to my granola. By putting flavor onto the oats and nuts, it doesn't require more added sweetness.

And what's better in the morning than smells coming from freshly baked breakfast goodies. I'd make this granola just for the smell that comes from the oven. Heavenly. My family, without exception, comes and asks curiously what I am cooking when I have granola in the oven. It's that good.

1/2 cup dates, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup boiling water
1 tablespoon orange zest

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup almonds, chopped
1/4 cup flax seeds

1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
Place dates and orange zest in a bowl. Pour over the boiling water and let stand for 10 minutes. Stir in the olive oil, then puree.

Preheat oven to 165C/350F.

In bowl, combine oats, almonds and flax seeds. Add in the date mixture. Stir until dry ingredients are well coated. Spread in a single layer onto a baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool completely. Stir in desiccated coconut. Store in airtight container. 
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05 September, 2011

Spicy Roasted Chickpeas

Roasted chickpeas are no news to the foodie world. However, my first few attempts were disastrous. I tried them several times, with canned and home-cooked chickpeas. And ended up with some chewy, rubber-like and by no means crunchy balls. Simply because I didn't roast them long enough. A few recipes in the Internet call for 20 minutes roasting time. I must have seen only these recipes and couldn't quite figure out what went wrong. As I never had roasted chickpeas before, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. But chewy didn't feel right, it tasted horrible.

Fast forward a year or so: by coincidence I came across a recipe for roasted chickpeas that call for 40-50 minutes roasting time. Now we are talking. My first few attempts were huge hits with my family, each batch was munched up within a very short time. The seasoning can be any combination of herbs and spices. For now, spicy  is our favorite. A hearty combination of cumin, paprika and cayenne pepper. A no-guilt snack that munches away as quickly as crisps.

2 cups cooked chickpeas

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)

Serves 6
Preheat oven to 180C/375F.

Spread the cooked chickpeas on a kitchen or paper towel and pat dry.
Combine spices and salt in a small bowl. Coat chickpeas with olive oil, then sprinkle spice mix over them. Toss until evenly coated.

Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for about 45 minutes, or until crunchy and no longer soft inside. Let cool. Ready to serve.
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01 September, 2011

Chocolate Orange Muffins

Conversation between husband and me at 9pm after dinner:

H: Why are you still so busy in the kitchen?
I: Baking some breakfast muffins for you for tomorrow morning. I had the last one of those chocolate ones today.
I: Because I need to taste the stuff that I bake so I can blog about it.
H: Those were nice muffins!!! I especially liked the lemon stuff in there.
I: That's not enough food criticism to post a recipe. That's why I need to taste them myself. And by the way, it wasn't lemon. It was orange...

Is it just happening in our house, but the moment I pull something out of the oven, it's gone. So it happened several with these Buckwheat Date Muffins, those Buckwheat Almond Crackers, and usually with any amount of French Fries. I really have to hurry up to get a few crumbs before everything is polished off by husband and kids.

My son is turning six next month, and he is already starting to eat for two. Is it time for me to mentally prepare myself to roast two chickens, one for him and one for the rest of the family? Of course, I wouldn't write this, if he wasn't as thin as a stick. Yeah, I probably have to do double portions now. Perhaps I should get a set of bigger pots and pans for Christmas.

But hey, I take it as a compliment when my family loves the stuff that I make for them. And I have to say, these chocolate orange muffins are truly heavenly. If it was just me eating them, they wouldn't last longer than 2 days either.

(Print Recipe)

1 cup spelt flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 egg, lightly beaten
4 tablespoons honey
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons orange zest, finely grated

1/2 cup dried dates (about 10-12 dried dates), pitted and chopped
1/4 cup yogurt

1/4 cup chopped nuts

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

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

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

Fill in the muffin molds. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
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