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.
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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.
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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.
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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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