30 November, 2012

Asian Broccoli Salad

Bad news today ! Be prepared for a big whine. 

I've got my first ever running injury. After last week's 25k long run (which was part of my marathon training), I realized that I was limping and that I had pains in my left thigh that were beyond the usual aches after a long run. Two days later it was still not better, and I tried a little self diagnosis by looking up the symptoms on the Internet. Everything pointed to a grade I muscle tear. 

Next and most important question was: How long does it take to heal and how long am I not able to run? The timing could not have been any worse. The most popular Dubai half marathon is coming up in one (!) week. I am also in the most crucial part of marathon training for the Dubai Marathon at the end of January. Damn!

It's hard to sit still and do nothing, apart from rubbing tiger balm on my leg and massaging it with a rolling pin. I've got stuff to do, races to run, mileage to get in. It's the wrongest time in the season to have an injury!!

After 4-5 days, I was slightly deluded when I was able to walk without a limp and the thigh not being as sensitive to touch. But my follow-up appointment with the doctor this morning left me with a less optimistic outlook. It showed that the muscle is far from healed and still very sore when pressing on the injured spots. I am now allowed a 5 minute jog. That's not even worth the effort of putting my trainers on. 

I don't know what to do about this. I have never been injured. Right now, I feel I have to decide which race is more important to me: the half marathon next week or the full marathon in January. If I run the half next week, I might risk not even finishing it and extended injury that will keep me from preparing for the full marathon. If I give it a miss, I will miss out on the biggest Dubai running event. But I might be able to recover properly and be ready to train properly for the full marathon. What do I want? I don't know. I still want both!

I have been giving my diet extra care in the past week, making sure I eat a lot of anti-inflammatory foods to support recovery. I sprinkled in turmeric and cumin wherever I could. The veggies couldn't be green enough and raw ginger was a must in all dressings. I also allowed myself a very anti-anti-inflammatory glass of wine in the evening. To mend my broken spirits. With temporary but reasonable results.

Today's Asian broccoli salad has been on my a few times in the past week. Full of anti-inflammatory ingredients, light, and good to keep in the fridge for a few hours. A true keeper that I will sure eat, even without injury. Wish me luck that this muscle tear is healing up quickly. I'd be devastated if it keeps me from running for much longer.

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ASIAN BROCCOLI SALAD

(Print Recipe)

4 cups broccoli florets

2 cups bean sprouts
2 spring onions, white and light green parts thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

1/4 cup raw almonds, roughly chopped
1 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce

Dressing
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce divided
1/2 tablespoon rice vinegar 
1 teaspoon honey (or raw sugar for a vegan version)


1 clove garlic, crushed
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated
pinch of red chili flakes
Serves 4-6
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Steam the broccoli until just tender, about 4-5 minutes. Transfer broccoli to a bowl of ice cold water to stop cooking process. Drain and set aside.
In a small pan, heat one teaspoon of sesame oil. Fry the almonds, stirring frequently until nuts are toasted, 3-4 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of soy sauce to the pan and stir until nuts are just coated. Remove from heat and let cool.
In a small bowl, whisk together sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar and honey.  Stir in garlic, ginger and chili flakes.

Combine cooked broccoli, bean sprouts, spring onions and cilantro in a serving bowl. Pour over the dressing and stir until evenly coated. Sprinkle with toasted almonds. Serve immediately or keep in the fridge for up to 4 hours before serving.
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23 November, 2012

Grain Free Vanilla Cookies

Christmas is only a month away. It's a scary thought: I will have my parents over from Europe for 2 weeks. So the pressure is on. They have never really spend Christmas in warm weather. I find it so much easier to get into Christmas mood when it's cold, dark and wet outside. Candles make more sense in such environment. In Dubai, we'll probably be in the swimming pool at lunchtime, and definitely in shirts and shorts during the day. Candles? While having the air-conditioner on at the same time? Please......

I have always put up Christmas decoration half-heartedly and much later than people would usually do in Germany. Yet, I think it's time to replace ALL of our Christmas decoration (as our house looked exactly the same every Christmas for several years with the same stuff in the same places). While I am at it, probably even buy a new Christmas tree. Our old one has lasted several years, and I am sick and tired of it too.

I checked my Christmas cookie recipes, and even they need an overhaul. We've eaten the same ones for years now. Don't get me wrong, I will still make our all-time favorites: The Gingerbread Cookies (the kids love these) and the Snowballs (husband could live on them during the festive season). But it was time to add something new.

My grain-free nutrition phase is still very high on my priority list, as I feel it impacts on my well -being more than any other diet. I tried gluten free and it didn't make much of a difference. I tried dairy free, and I couldn't see any changes.

Developing a grain free cookie cutter recipe would be a logical next step. Over the summer, I tried again and again to make something out of coconut flour, but it would go straight to the bin in all cases. Coconut flour doesn't really crisp up in a cookie. If you try and google coconut-flour-based cookies, you will not find much. For exactly that reason. A combination of almond meal and coconut flour finally gave the satisfactory results.

My kids and I have been gobbling up these cookies in the shortest amount of time, always in need of the next batch within a day or two. These cookies are tried, tested and approved. I hope you will enjoy them as much as we do.

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GRAIN FREE VANILLA COOKIES

(Print Recipe)

1 cup almond meal
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 teaspoon baking soda

2 eggs
100g coconut sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons butter (room temperature)

Yields ca. 25-30 cookies
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In a bowl combine almond meal, coconut flour and baking soda. Mix well and set aside.

With a handheld mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Add butter in small pieces and blend until fully incorporated.

Add the flour mixture in small portions and blend until a dough forms. You may want to do this with your hands, once the mixture gets thick. If the dough doesn't stick together in a ball, add small amounts of coconut flour until you achieve the results.
Dive the dough into two balls, flatten them to a disc and wrap in cling wrap. Keep in the refrigerator for about 1 hour.

Preheat your oven to 160C/325F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
Take one disc out of the refrigerator. Between two sheets of parchment paper, roll the dough to 1/8 to 1/4 inch thickness with a rolling pin. Remove the top parchment paper. Cut the dough into shapes with cookie cutters of your choice. Lift the cut-out dough with a spatula and place it onto the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the other disc of dough.

Bake for 9 minutes or until bottoms are golden brown. To get your cookies extra crispy, you may flip the cookies upside down and leave them in the switched-off oven for another few minutes.
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19 November, 2012

Kiwi Sorbet

Do you agree with me that certain foods should not be transformed and processed through cooking? Lettuce, cucumbers, grapefruits, and kiwi fruit fall into this category.

Lettuce will loose all its fresh crispness and become a wilted watery lukewarm pathetic vegetable. Cucumbers, due to their high water content, will have similar results as lettuce. Grapefruit I find best raw, either in form of its segments in a salad or juiced.

A few weeks back I was asked to come up with a recipe that includes kiwi fruit. I was at a total loss. What can you do with kiwi without destroying its delicate flavor and texture? I was hoping to get some inspiration through Google, but nothing came up that would tickle my fancy. In fact, most recipes confirmed my argument that kiwi fruit should be left raw, and just be added to salads.

During our summer vacation in Europe, I bought an ice cream maker as my husband loves sorbet. We have been making  sorbet out of many fruits. Many of them were raw, pureed fruit sweetened with a little honey and with some fresh lemon juice to add some zing. In fact, these kind of sorbets are a perfect way to get some raw fruit into people who are otherwise not great fruit lovers.

Making kiwi sorbet would be worth a try! My very first attempt was a total success, and I must say that of all sorbets that we have made (raspberry, mango, pineapple, citrus fruit), I find the kiwi sorbet the most addictive. A dessert that is a vitamin C bomb in disguise. To be eaten without any guilty feelings. Give it a go! I bet you will like it.
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KIWI SORBET

(Print Recipe)

8 ripe kiwi fruits
1 lemon, juice of

4 tablespoons honey

Yields about 8-10 scoops
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Peel the kiwi fruits and chop them roughly. Blend kiwis in food processor until smooth. Add lemon juice and honey and pulse until well combined.

WITH ICE CREAM MAKER
Transfer mixture to ice cream maker and follow its instructions.

WITHOUT ICE CREAM MAKER
Alternatively, chill the mixture in the fridge until thoroughly cooled.
Pour the kiwi mixture into a shallow bowl or pan. Freeze until almost solid. Take out of the freezer, and thoroughly stir it with a fork. Put back into freezer and freeze until solid.
Scoop out the frozen mixture and place it into a food processor. Pulse until smooth. Transfer sorbet to airtight container and return to freezer until ready to serve.

You may want to take out the sorbet and leave it at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving to soften the sorbet and make scooping easier.
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11 November, 2012

Grandma's Sweet and Sour Cucumber Salad

I was recently asked to contribute four German recipes to a publication whose topic would be international cuisine. It had to be a soup, an entree, a salad and a dessert. While desserts and entrees are fairly easy when it comes to German cuisine (think tons of eggs in sugar laden cakes or heavy meats with rich gravy), it took a bit more thought to come up with a typical soup and salad, as I wanted those two categories to fit into my ideas of healthy food.

I went through all the dishes that we ate at family houses while on vacation back in the summer. Until my grandma's cucumber salad came to my mind.

My grandma is 80 years old and has been living alone for most of her life. She loves children, and used to be a nursery teacher in the village nursery school before becoming a pensioner. She has got a big heart. One can feel that she has always been surrounded by children as noise and a little mess don't bug her at all. It is also inevitable that she has been living alone for very long. There is certain rules in her house that cannot be messed with. Like lunch time at 11.30am sharp.

Whenever we go visit her on our summer vacation, she loves to have us over to have lunch with her. My husband and I usually skip breakfast on that day, as lunch at granny's house will be a 3-course meal with a light broth soup as a starter, some major meat roast with several sides and potato dumplings as main, and of course pudding. When we arrive just 10 minutes late, she will not say anything, but I can see that she has been waiting impatiently and that food was ready to be served for at least 15 minutes.

Grandma's cucumber salad has been around for as long as I can remember. She would grow the cucumbers in her garden behind the house, a huge patch that has several apple and walnut trees, plum and pear trees, gooseberry and redcurrant bushes, and all sorts of vegetables from potatoes over carrots, green beans to savoy cabbage.

Grandma's cucumber salad is one of the most simple and most refreshing salads I know. It's perfect on hot summer days, or to lighten up a heavy meat-laden entree. Here is my German salad recipe for you. Enjoy!
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GRANDMA'S SWEET AND SOUR CUCUMBER SALAD

(Print Recipe)

1 English cucumber OR 6 Lebanese cucumbers
1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon neutral oil (e.g. sunflower or canola oil)
1 tablespoon raw sugar

freshly ground pepper

Serves 4
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Thinly slice the cucumbers. Sprinkle with salt and let stand for about 30 minutes. Squeeze them gently to get rid of excess water. Transfer to serving bowl.

Combine the white vinegar, oil and sugar. Mix into cucumbers and adjust seasoning, e.g add more sugar if the vinegar is too dominant. Top with freshly ground pepper. This salad is especially refreshing when cooled in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours before serving.
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03 November, 2012

Lentil Pumpkin Salad with Arugula and Feta

Lentils are the perfect autumn/winter food, don't you think? Comforting, warming and filling and very versatile when it comes to its usage in a dish. I bookmark almost every lentil recipe that I come across. I have the whole array of lentils in my pantry.

Yet, I hardly ever get to make one of these recipes. My lentil bags in the pantry are mostly untouched. God knows why. To be honest, only red lentils I use on a regular basis for soups and dals. I am hoping that this will change in the coming weeks and months when it's cooler. A good start were the Lentil Pancakes that I posted a few weeks ago.

Today's salad is a good follow-up recipe, as it couldn't be any more autumn-y. Roasted pumpkin seasoned with cumin, paprika and chili flakes with black lentils. Arugula adds some more earthy freshness, and little feta cheese crumbs add some creaminess. So many layers of textures and flavors in one single bowl. Enjoy!
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LENTIL PUMPKIN SALAD WITH ARUGULA AND FETA
adapted slightly from Bon Appetit

(Print Recipe)

1/2 cup black lentils

3 cups pumpkin, peeled and de-seeded and cut into cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

3 cups arugula leaves
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed

Serves 4
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Soak lentils in cold water for a few hours. Drain.
Cook lentils in boiling salted water until tender, but still with a bite, around 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Preheat oven to 220C.
Toss pumpkin cubes with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, spices and salt. Place pumpkin on a baking tray in a single layer and roast until tender, about 20 minutes. Turn over halfway. Set aside.

Mix two tablespoons of olive oil with lemon juice.

Transfer lentils to a serving bowl. Stir in the lemon dressing. Add pumpkin cubes and arugula leaves. Sprinkle with feta cheese. Ready to serve.
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