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.
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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.
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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.
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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!


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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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