28 October, 2012

Vanilla Pumpkin Almond Bread

Halloween is around the corner. I will have to go Trick or Treating with my kids again. My son wants to dress up as a devil. My daughter doesn't like scary creatures and therefore wants to be a fairy. Both my kids want me to dress up as witch again. I must have looked quite convincing last year.

October also means the start of the running season in Dubai. I had a 8k race and a 10k race on the last two weekends. My summer training seems to be paying off. I was happy with my times and even made it onto the podium at the 8k race.
Nice setting of the podium in front of the Burj Al Arab Hotel
October also marks the beginning of my marathon training for the Dubai Marathon on 25 January 2013. The marathon training, more than anything else, means primarily three things: I will run a lot more. I will eat a lot more. And I will need a lot more sleep to recover.

The sleep issue is basically solved for me as long as I do my runs in the late afternoon/evening. I have never been an avid morning runner (unless it is a race). So running in the evening, come home to have shower and dinner and then crash onto the sofa or straight into bed has worked quite well for me in the past. After a good nights sleep, my legs might still feel a bit tired, but I can function and my head is clear.
Whenever I do run in the morning (especially if it is long runs), I feel tired for the rest of the day. Today was one of those days, where I squeezed in a 19k (12mi) run in the morning. By lunchtime I had splitting headaches, and my body was just screaming for rest and sleep. Needs to be avoided.

The food issue: especially at marathon training time, I am glad that I am small and slim. While I run, I do burn a good amount of calories, but by far not as much as a 80kg/175lb guy would burn. I sometimes wonder how much time these guys spend eating. I already spend a whole lot of time in the kitchen preparing and eating food. So imagine that with someone who easily burns double the amount. Food portions increase enormously during this time, and grab-and-go snacks need to be ready at all times: preferably in form of muffins, cakes, granola bars, etc.
Today's recipe is therefore a grain free seasonal loaf cake with fresh grated pumpkin. The pumpkin is used in the same way, you would use carrots in a carrot cake. The ingredients list is incredibly simple and short. The cake can be whipped up in no time. The cake itself is moist and sweet and extremely satisfying as breakfast cake, mid morning snack or as afternoon cake. Enjoy!

(Print Recipe)

1 1/2 cups almond meal
1 teaspoon baking powder

2 eggs
1/2 cup/100g coconut sugar
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups/200g fresh pumpkin, coarsley grated

Yields 1 loaf
Preheat oven to 180C. Grease or line loaf tin with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine almond meal and baking powder. Set aside.
In another bowl, beat two eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. Add coconut oil and vanilla extract.
Combine wet and dry ingredients until well mixed. Gently fold in grated pumpkin.

Transfer batter to prepared loaf tin. Bake for about 45 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes in the tin, before taking it out. Let cool completely on wire rack.
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24 October, 2012

Autumn Favorites 2012

It's about time that I compiled a seasonal Favorite Recipe list - with autumnal fruit and vegetables, combined with a whole array of immune-strengthening spices, like turmeric and cumin, cinnamon and chili, to be well prepared for all the winter colds and flus that may come (and hopefully go without us even noticing). Here are my Top 10 favorite autumn recipes in alphabetical order:

Barley and Root Vegetable Soup:
I love chunky vegetable soups when the days get colder. You get a good amount of veggies in, and with it comes a good amount of vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Cumin-Scented Chickpea Soup:
This the ideal midweek dinner soup that is can be made from precooked or canned chickpeas. Seasoned with a good amount of cumin and turmeric, it has numerous health benefits that ranging from improved digestion to keeping flu at bay.

Dukkah Spiced Pumpkin Salad:
An amazing salad with seasonal pumpkin that wows with many layers of textures and flavors: roasted pumpkin, steamed green beans, feta cheese sprinkled with dukkah (and Egyptian nut spice mix).

Frozen Chocolate Nut Bars:
When the weather gets to cold for ice cream, it might be time for a frozen chocolate nut bar: this is nutrition in dessert form as it includes the goodness of raw nuts, flaxseed, coconut oil and and the antioxidant properties of cocoa.

Grain Free Apple Walnut Bread:
This little loaf is made with coconut flour and almond meal, sweetened with dates only and gets extra crunch from chopped walnuts.

Orange-Scented Hazelnut Prune Truffles:
Every year in autumn, I fall in love again with orange zest. I put it into any dessert. These truffles are made of dried fruit and nuts and orange zest. Heavenly and healthy at the same time.

Red Lentil Dal:
Ever since I reduced my grain intake to a minimum, I find myself resorting to legumes when I need some comfort food. This red lentil dal is my favorite dinner in front of the TV food when I am alone.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Goat Cheese:
These filled butternut squashes are a true flavor explosion. The butternuts are seasoned with chili, garlic and thyme. The filling consists of Parmesan, goat cheese and pine nuts and more veggies. Vegetarian food can't get much better.

Roasted Pumpkin & Pomegranate Salad:
This is a simple salad in which roasted pumpkin, carrots, pomegranate, arugula and crumbled feta cheese bounce their flavors off each other.

Spicy Roasted Chickpeas:
These roasted chickpeas are spiced with cumin for depth and chili for heat. My family loves them that I usually do double or triple portions, as they disappear as soon as I take them out of the oven.
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17 October, 2012

Grain Free Orange Chocolate Cookies

One of my favorite autumn and winter flavors is orange zest in combination with dried dates or some deep dark chocolate. Or both. It cannot be deep or dark enough.

Here are some of my other orange zesty recipes:
There we go: all sorts of flavored granolas, granola bars, snack bars, cakes and truffles. Notice something? Yes, no cookie recipe yet. That will change with today's recipe that I am particularly proud of: Grain Free Orange Chocolate Cookies, sweetened with date syrup and honey. First of all: my kids absolutely love them. They are grain free and nut free (so I can pack them into my son's lunch box for school). They can be whipped in no time with very little ingredients that might have sitting in pantry and fridge anyway.

I am usually a fan of small amounts when cooking and baking (e.g. who wants to eat the same stuff for days in row...), but these cookies have disappeared so quickly, that it is not necessary halving the recipe. Enjoy!

(Print Recipe)

2 cups dried coconut flakes
1/2 cup cocoa powder

2 eggs
1/4 cup date syrup (or alternatively honey)
1/4 cup honey
1 orange, zest of

Yields 20-25
Preheat oven to 180C. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a bowl, combine coconut flakes and cocoa powder. Mix well.  In another bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Stir in date syrup, honey and orange zest. Combine wet and dry ingredients.

Take one tablespoon of the batter and form discs of about 1,5 inches diameter. Place them onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 18-20 minutes. Or until golden brown.

If you want your cookies slightly more crispy, switch off the oven after 18-20 minutes. Flip the cookies upside down and put back into switched-off but warm oven  for another few minutes.
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10 October, 2012

Carrot Tahini Soup

May I make a very bold statement today? Here we go: Everything tastes better with tahini.There, I said it. These days, I hardly have a meal without tahini. It's either in my hummus, or in the dressing over a huge bowl of veggies or as a sauce to go with my falafels or some noodles. And now also in my soup.

As summer comes to a close, it's time to cook more soups again. Something comforting with a variety of vegetables and spices inside that help you protect from the colds and flus that often come along with a change of season.

My spice mix includes coriander, cumin and turmeric. Especially the two latter ones are known to have great anti inflammatory effects on your body and should actually be consumed regularly. They strengthen the immune system and help weight loss by increasing fat metabolism.
Garlic promotes the well-being of the immune systems with antioxidant properties. It is also cholesterol lowering. Carrots have great antioxidant properties and and are full of vitamin A, B and E. Tahini is a gold mine for vitamin B and calcium. Because it's ground up, it is very easy to digest, and the nutritional properties will be in your bloodstream within 30 minutes after consumption.

After this little scientific list of nutritional properties I will not leave you before emphasizing how good this soup tastes. The sweetness of the carrots is bounced off against the punch of the spices and the tahini adds a lovely nutty flavor to it. That's carrot soup taken to another level. Enjoy!

1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves, of garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon  ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1lb carrots, chopped
 3 cups water

3 tablespoons tahini

pumpkin seeds (optional)
sesame seeds (optional)

Serves 2-3
In a pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped onions and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add minced garlic and cook for another minute.

Stir in all spices, salt and pepper. Now add the chopped carrots and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add water, increase heat to high until it comes to a boil. Cover with lid then cook over medium heat until carrots are thoroughly cooked. Take off the heat and let cool for about 10 minutes before stirring in the tahini. In a food processor, blend the soup until smooth. Reheat of necessary.

Transfer soup to serving bowls and garnish with pumpkin or sesame seeds (optional). Serve immediately.
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04 October, 2012

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Dried Cherries

Autumn is here, I'd like to think. The morning temperatures are just below 30C which feels almost fresh after several months of 35+C. However, during the day my autumnal feeling still dwindle a bit with temperatures around 40C around lunchtime. That's not fresh. It's plain hot.

Never mind the temperatures, Dubai seems to have awoken from its lazy summer slumber. Kids are back in school, kids' birthday parties are lined up until November. My running season has just started and several races have been lined up until April next year. My training for the Dubai marathon will start just after Halloween.

Before Halloween, I have to organize my son's birthday party. He will be seven. He wants a sports party. I was thinking of doing athletics with them: sprint runs, long jump (into a sandpit), high jump (over a broom stick), relay runs, ball throwing, etc. Accompanying parents can be marshals and referees. All kids get a bib number upon arrival. After the competition, everyone gets a medal and a certificate with their personal results in each discipline. No direct winners, or losers. Everyone to their abilities and capabilities. Can't wait to chase them all around.

With all this busy-ness, one mustn't forget to eat properly. Instead of raw salads, I start craving warm foods. Still nothing too heavy. These days, my go-to meal is a big bowl of cooked vegetables with some sauce or dressing, sprinkled with roasted nuts or seeds. But warm it must be.
One autumnal vegetable, pumpkin, has already become a regular ingredient in those huge batches of roasted vegetables that I  cook (and eat) several times per week.
But I was happy to pick up some Brussels sprouts the other day. Ever since I was pregnant with my second child (during that pregnancy I was craving green leafy vegetables - I am sure I have told you several times before - sorry), I am in love with Brussels sprouts. I acknowledge the fact that many people (and especially children) don't like the slightly bitter taste. The nutritional value of Brussels sprouts, however,  are tremendous: anti-inflammatory, full antioxidants, good for the digestive tract, and provides great cancer protection. That's reason enough to try and come up with a dish, that may convert a Brussels sprouts hater.

Bouncing off the taste of the Brussels sprouts with something totally different, is the way to go. I decided to go with dried cherries, something tart and sweet to compete with the bitterness of the Brussels sprouts. Initially, I even had a tahini dressing with it. But then I decided that all it needs is a good splash of good olive oil and some dried fruit. I can't help myself but sprinkle tasted nuts or seeds on everything. So here we go: Brussels sprouts with dried cherries and toasted almonds. I'd eat a big bowl of this at any day for lunch.


1lb Brussels Sprouts, trimmed and quartered lengthwise
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt and pepper

1/4 cup dried cherries, roughly chopped
1/4 cup almonds
olive oil to taste

(Serves 3-4)
Preheat oven to 220C.

Place Brussels sprouts in a bowl and plash over the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Stir so the olive oil coats the vegetables evenly.
Spread Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Turn them over once for even roasting.

Meanwhile, roast the almonds in a dry pan over medium low heat for a few minutes. Shake the pan regularly to provide even roasting.  Let cool a little. Then chop roughly.

If the dried cherries are very dry, soak them in warm water for a few minutes. Drain.
Mix dried cherries into the roasted Brussels sprouts. Transfer to serving bowl and sprinkle with roasted almonds. Sprinkle with more olive oil if desired. Serve immediately.
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