26 August, 2012

Vegetable Curry in a Hurry

We are in the last week of our holiday in Europe. In a week's time, we'll be home. As in previous years, after about three weeks, we start to looking forward to go home again. Even if it means to go back to scorching heat and humidity, as this is what we can expect at the end of August in Dubai.

For the past few days, we have been visiting family and friends every day. I am very close to my family. As I am only going home once per year, I am ready to make the effort of seeing everyone, even if it is just for an afternoon. This sounds easier than it is. Especially for the kids it is quite a tiring task, and for my husband probably a bit boring as he doesn't speak German. Those visits, especially the ones to the older family members are usually accompanied by big meals and heavy German cakes. For the meals that we have by ourselves before or after a visit, my family particularly asks for something light.

I love meals that don't require a trip to the grocery store and that can be whipped up in just a few minutes. We are usually stocked up on a variety of vegetables, no matter where we are. On a few rainy days here in Germany, I made us hearty vegetable soups without having to leave the house. This vegetable curry has been on my favorite list too, ever since I used it to clean out the veggie shelf in my fridge before our holidays. Quick and easy, light on the stomach, very satisfying and extremely healthy as the veggies as well as the spcies have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. Enjoy!
adapted from Against all Grain

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon coriander
pinch of chili powder
sea salt to taste

3 cups mixed fresh vegetables (e.g. carrots, zucchini, cauliflower, potatoes, broccoli, green beans)

1 cup coconut milk

Serves 2
Cut vegetables evenly into bite sizes.
Heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add ginger and spices and fry for a few seconds until fragrant. Add vegetables and saute for a few minutes.
Add the coconut milk and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked. Serve immediately.
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19 August, 2012

Summer Savory Herb Muffins with Tzatziki

We are past half-time on our one-month vacation in Europe. On the weekend we returned to Germany after two wonderful weeks in Portugal. What a beautiful place Portugal is! We stayed in Cascais near Lisbon, to me the best kept secret for an amazing summer holiday. To many people, only the Algarve in the south is known as a holiday destination. Cascais seems to be reserved for mainly Portuguese to spend their holidays.

Foodwise, it is paradise if restaurants serve food to their own people. They stay true to themselves. They don't need to try and impress or satisfy other tastebuds as it often happens in very touristy places. In Cascais, you'll find seafood restaurants about every 50m into any direction. Portuguese friends of ours provided us with a list of restaurants that are particularly good and inexpensive.

And this is what we did: eating ourselves through these recommendations and a self-made list of typical Portuguese dishes. I must have had several kilos of grilled bacalhau dishes (made from dried salted codfish), fresh grilled sardines and prawns during those two weeks. In our luggage, we now have several kilos of bacalhau, as I want to try to recreate a few of the dishes when we are back in Dubai.

It was a lot of food over the past two weeks. Good, honest and fresh food, no doubt, but a lot.
We are now at my mom's house, who is on holiday in France for another week. It's also a one-week break before we will be served heavy German home fare. We all crave some light dishes and salads. I'll be very happy to make us just that for a whole week.

I do crave savory muffins every now and then. Due to these cravings, this herb muffin recipe has been brought to perfection while I was still in Dubai. They used to be my lunch very often. I love the texture of a muffin, but prefer a grain-free version. These days, I often crave savory over sweet things. So a good amount of herbs and spices in the muffins and freshness added with a tzatziki dip does make a satisfactory light meal that keeps you full for a few hours. Enjoy!
2 tablespoons coconut flour
2 tablespoons ground flax meal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1/2 tablespoon  za'atar spice mix
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel (or sea salt)
3 eggs (at room temperature)
2 tablespoons coconut oil (melted)
3 tablespoons water
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/4 cup mixed seeds (e.g. pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds)

2 cups full fat yogurt
1 small cucumber, peeled and deseeded, then very finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
1/4 cup parsley or chives, very finely chopped

Yields 4-6
Preheat oven to 200C/400F. Line or grease muffin molds.

In a bowl, combine coconut flour, flax meal, baking soda, nutritional yeast, salt, and za'atar. Mix well.
In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Stir in coconut oil and water. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Make sure there are no lumps int he batter. Stir in onion, parsley and seeds.

Fill the muffin molds with the batter. Bake for 25 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir well. Transfer to airtight container and keep in the fridge for a couple of hours for the flavors to blend. Serve cold from the fridge.
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11 August, 2012

Homemade Butter Popcorn

Bom Dia from Portugal this time! We are at our second stop of our one-month vacation in Europe. For two weeks, we are staying in a coastal town near Lisbon. The beach is 100m away from our holiday home. We are surrounded by tiny restaurants, off the beaten track, that serve freshly grilled sardines and chicken. Fruit an vegetables available int he grocery stores are mostly local produce. For me, after having lived in Dubai for 8 years where local produce is scarce, this is amazing. I go for long slow runs along the coast at least every other day. The wind blowing from the Atlantic is a reliable refreshment on those runs. I go past cliffs and light towers. Probably the most scenic runs I have ever done.

And in the evenings, without fail, we watch Olympics. To me, it's a must. Being in the same time zone as the Olympics in London makes it very easy and convenient. Since my childhood, I have always followed the athletics and swimming the most. But I also like the Olympics because I get to see other sports that are otherwise not as present on TV, such as archery.

With such a busy holiday schedule, you might suspect that I haven't cooked much. I'l be honest: I haven't cooked at all. I am not even missing it. As we are watching the Olympics for yet another night, I have a platter of veggie sticks, olives, local cheeses and smoked ham and melon in front me. Plus a bottle of wine. What else does one need?

But I take the opportunity and leave you with the recipe of our regular TV sport food back at home: homemade butter popcorn. Kids and husbands love it, and as we are quite an active TV sports family, popcorn needs to be dished up on a regular basis.

Popcorn is the easiest thing to make. It only needs popcorn kernels, butter and some salt. And a heavy-bottomed pot. This is the most important utensil here, as it reduces the risk of burnt popcorn to a minimum. With the house filled with the smell of melted butter, and a happy family on the sofa watching TV and eating a healthy snack, life can be good. Enjoy!

1 cup popcorn kernels
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
sea salt

Serves 4-6
In a heavy-bottomed pot, melt butter slowly over medium heat.
Add the corn and shake the pot so the corn gets evenly coated with the melted butter. Cover with glass lid (so you can see what's happening inside) and cook over medium-low heat. Occasionally shake the whole pot with the lid on,  until corn is starting to pop. Leave the heat on, as long as you hear many pops. Once the popping slows down, switch off the heat. Leave the lid on for another half minute or so, or until there is no more popping sounds. Season with sea salt and transfer to serving bowls.
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03 August, 2012

Cucumber Lemon Cooler

Hello from Hamburg. We are finally on our one-month summer vacation in Germany in Portugal. It feels really good to be back home, although Hamburg is not my hometown (I went to university in Berlin). I love summer in big cities. Life is happening outside. People take every opportunity to get some much-needed sun rays. On every available little strip of green, people spread out their blankets to enjoy some fresh air with a little portable BBQ or picnic. You'll find queues in front of ice cream parlors. Beer gardens are bustling from mid-afternoon on. The combination of big city buzz and peaceful outdoor relaxation is what I like. As you walk past, you overhear other people's conversation. A real slice of life. Something that I have always missed in Dubai.

I am in holiday mode. For one month, I will loosen up a bit about my self-imposed dietary restrictions. We are staying at other people's houses. Sticking to a grain free or gluten free diet, I would have to go the extra mile. I am not willing to do that. I enjoy a cold beer in the afternoon or evening. I also would not want to miss the delicious breads that are available in Germany. Staying mostly sugar free, will not be such a big issue, although I will surely indulge in the occasional ice cream.

But I have come prepared. For the past few weeks in Dubai, I have cooked up storms and taken lots of pictures that I have taken a long. So while I am indulging, there won't be a shortage of healthy recipes for you.

Today's recipe is a refreshing drink that I made almost daily in the past few weeks in Dubai when temperatures were soaring: my Cucumber Lemon Cooler. I love the combination of cucumber and lemon, as the cucumber cuts the acidity of the citrus, which is otherwise done with a lot of sugar. Some mint adds some extra freshness. The result is a refreshing low-calorie drink that is made from fresh and raw ingredients only. Enjoy your summer!

1 cup cucumbers, peeled and chopped
2 lemons, juice of
2 limes, juice of
3 sprigs fresh mint, leaves of
1 cup water

1 tablespoon honey or agave syrup (or to taste)

1 cup crushed ice

Serves 2-4
In a high speed food processor, combine cucumbers, mint, lemon and lime juice and water. Blend mixture until smooth. Transfer to glasses. Stir in honey and top with crushed ice. Garnish with mint leaves. Serve immediately.
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