26 March, 2013

Wasabi Roasted Edamame

Do you like wasabi? For many years, I only knew it as this horrible green paste that comes with sushi and that (in my opinion) kills any other flavor that you would try and taste at the same time. I never really understood how wasabi can go together with something delicate as sushi. I decided that long time ago, and never really tried wasabi again.

Until one afternoon, I sat at a Filipino friend's house and we ate wasabi peas. Did you ever try wasabi peas? Addictive is an understatement. Crunchy like roasted nuts, but so much lighter. The wasabi works perfectly with the slight sweetness of the peas. I didn't check the ingredients list of these commercially available wasabi peas. But when I did, I was sad to see that these were no good: vegetable oil, artificial flavors, and the likes.

Fast forward a few years, I try and make wasabi peas myself. It took me a couple of weeks to get it right: 1. peas don't work as they shrivel to close to nothing when roasted for an hour. 2 edamame do not need to be boiled or steamed before roasting. It's just extra liquid that you have to get out later when trying to get them dry and crispy. 3. A little coating of oil helps the wasabi stick to the beans 4. Leave them in the oven until they are completely dried out and crispy, even if it takes 90 minutes. You will not regret it.

It's my husband's new favorite snack. He never liked wasabi either before. But these are addictive. I promise!

(Print Recipe)

2 cups freshly shelled edamame beans (or alternatively frozen)

1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons wasabi powder
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Serves 4
Preheat oven to 175C/350F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, combine salt, wasabi and sesame. Set aside.

Thaw frozen edamame if using, under hot running water. Pat dry with paper towels.
In bowl, combine edamame beans and oil. Stir until evenly coated. Add the wasabi mixture and stir until evenly combined.

Spread the edamame in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast for 1 hour or up to 1 hour 20 minutes. Turn over the edamame a couple of times. They are done when completely dry and crispy.
Continue Reading>>

18 March, 2013

Ginger Lemon Tea

When you think you eat healthy, exercise regularly, sleep enough, have a rather regulated life and are generally happy with life, you'd think  your immune system should be able to fight off anything before it even appears on your radar.

Well, that's what I thought until I got the nastiest and longest-lasting cold of all times. It's been two weeks now and I am almost over it, but not quite yet. As you may know from this blog, I do live quite healthily. In my eyes, my only vice is that one glass of wine that I have every night as soon as the kids are in bed.
Once I realized that cold was here to stay, it made me re-think my current lifestyle.

Perhaps I do drink too much coffee and tea? That's a tough question to answer. I have had a few cups everyday for as long as I can remember.

Perhaps I didn't eat enough? My passion for running demands a higher energy intake. I thought that I had learned to listen to my body's needs and that I eat whenever I feel hungry, even when it is the 5th snack attack between lunch and dinner. Yet at times, I find it hard to gauge if my food intake is sufficient. It doesn't show so much on the scales. No matter, how little or much I eat, my weight is always the same within a range of 1kg up or down. Although it is on the very low end of what is being considered a healthy BMI. It seems to be more a question of increased nutrient demands through running that I need to meet.

Perhaps I didn't rest enough? I tend to think this is the main cause for my weakened immune system. With rest I mean resting from running. Allowing oneself enough time to recover. The running season in Dubai lasts from October until March/April. It's just coming to an end. During that time I ran one full marathon, 3 half marathons, two 10k races (with 2 more lined up in the next two weeks), one 8k race and one 5k race. It is a lot, I agree. And that's just the races. Now add the training for it on top, and I suddenly realize that I am simply exhausted. Depleted even. No energy reserves of whatever sort left to fight a little cold bug.
A few restful months after the last two races will be needed to recharge my batteries. Running will still be a crucial part in it. But not as manic. I look forward to leisurely slow running around the neighborhood. Just for the fun of it.

Back to my nasty cold. I tried everything to speed up recovery: vitamins by the bucket in the form of fresh fruit and vegetables. Turmeric wherever I could add it to a dish. Parsley in huge amounts. Less wine. Less running. More rest. And ginger lemon tea. I don't think anything actually helped. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the ginger lemon tea.
The health benefits of ginger are well-known. Its anti-inflammatory properties may prevent certain cancers,  help with gastro-intestinal issues. Ginger has immune-boosting properties and is known to fight of flus and colds. Lemons are similarly good when a cold is coming on: it's known for it's anti-bacterial, anti-viral and immune-boosting powers.
The ginger is very dominant in this tea. The spiciness made me believe that it is fighting anything in my body that doesn't belong there. A little touch of lemon flavor comes through the ginger spiciness and adds freshness to the tea. One can surely experiment with the proportions of ginger and lemon in this tea. Stay healthy!

(Print Recipe)

1 cup/250g fresh ginger, sliced
1 lemon, sliced

1 litre/1 quart/4 cups water

Serves 4
In a medium pot, bring sliced ginger and water to a boil. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Add lemon slices and cook for another 5 minutes. Take off the heat, and squeeze the lemon slices with a fork to extract some more juices. Strain and transfer to jug or tea pot. Enjoy as is or sweeten with some honey. If the tea is too strong, add some hot water.
Continue Reading>>

11 March, 2013

Vanilla Frozen Yogurt

My kids eat plain yogurt literally by the bucket. I actually do buy them in 1kg buckets. And I usually take two of these buckets as one will probably not last longer than a day or two. They have yogurt every day with plain brown rice and/or Red Lentil Dal. Or as a snack on its own, or for breakfast with chopped grapes and almonds. Only recently my son discovered his love for frozen yogurt. It will be a welcome cool and refreshing treat for the forthcoming summer months.

I am always happy when I find a dessert, snack or treat that they like AND that is healthy AND can be homemade. But that still looks like a kids treat, and not like some hippie health food. Because in reality, my kids do see what other kids have for snacks. And they are old enough to see that the snacks that I allow them are different to what the neighbors' kids and school mates eat.

But I take the opportunity to clap myself on the shoulder: I have laid a  good groundwork so far in educating my kids about food, telling them what is healthy and what is not and why and why it is important to eat lots of certain foods and only little of others.
In a way it makes me happy, when my son tells my on the way back from school what incredible junk food one or the other classmate had in his lunch box today.

Our ice cream maker has been in use throughout the winter with various honey-sweetened raw fruit sorbets (e.g. kiwi, raspberry or lemon) that a certain family member likes to eat as dessert after dinner. It's his way of eating fresh fruit.

Now I will have to squeeze in some frozen yogurt sessions into the schedule. Which I will do. Happily. Because I like the Vanilla Frozen Yogurt too. It's has such a simple straight forward tangy and refreshing taste. Well, nothing else could be expected from a three-ingredient dessert. Enjoy.


4 cups whole milk yogurt OR 2 cups strained/Greek yogurt
80g raw sugar, powdered*
1 vanilla bean, scraped OR 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

* You can grind regular sugar in a spice or coffee grinder to achieve finer sugar granules

Serves 4-6
If you use regular whole milk yogurt, strain the yogurt through several layers of cheesecloth or clean kitchen towel for two hours. Discard the whey.
Stir the sugar and the vanilla into the strained or Greek yogurt until well and evenly combined.

Transfer mixture to ice cream maker and follow its instructions.

Pour the yogurt mixture into a shallow bowl or pan. Freeze until almost solid, about 1-2 hours. 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 frozen yogurt to airtight container and return to freezer until ready to serve.

You may want to take out the ice cream and leave it at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving to soften and make scooping easier.
Continue Reading>>

06 March, 2013

Herbed Feta Quinoa Crackers

I am very happy to be presenting a new savory snack recipe today. I am very proud about this recipe, as my 5-year old daughter likes it. She is a bit of a fussy eater. Not so much with regards to what she eats/doesn't eat. It's more about timings.

Like me, she doesn't like to eat straight after she gets up in the morning. We both only develop an appetite about an hour or two after getting out of bed. When she comes home from school she is hungry, but too tired to eat. Especially a proper lunch. A vicious cycle starts. If she starts snacking, she will do so the whole afternoon: a slice of apple here, some grapes or a little chunk of cheese there. Half a cup of milk here, a carrot there. Any finger food will do, as long as she doesn't have to sit down in front of a plate of food (that may possibly include a piece of broccoli or cauliflower). The problem is, it doesn't fill her up. She actually needs a whole plate of food.

My daughter only started school in January, and the first weeks were all about adjustment. Quite difficult for everyone involved, to say the least. As I was the first person she would see after school, I was the outlet for all the new impressions and emotions that had piled up during her mornings in school: I was confronted with tantrums like I hadn't seen in ages, she would be incredibly impatient and just shout at me, or simply not talk at all.

By now, I can get her to eat some lunch on most days. For the other days, I have no choice than to keep wholesome and filling snacks ready. Crackers and hummus are some of her all-time favorites. These Feta Quinoa Crackers have a lovely hearty flavor. Due to the quinoa flakes, feta and eggs, they are a good source of protein too. Good for any school lunchbox, BBQ, potluck or cranky school children after a long day. 

(Print Recipe)

1 cup fine quinoa flakes (or fine oat flakes for a non-GF version)
1/4 cup chickpea flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons dried oregano (or thyme, za'atar, rosemary)

1/4 cup olive oil
2 eggs
3oz/75g feta cheese

Yields ca. 20 depending on size
Preheat oven to 180C/375F. 

In a bowl, combine quinoa/oat flakes, chickpea flour, salt and dried herbs. Mix well.
In another bowl lightly beat the eggs. Blend in the olive oil and feta cheese.
Combine wet and dry ingredients. Knead the dough until well combined.

Between two sheets of parchment paper, roll out the dough evenly and as thin as possible, to 1/8-1/4 inch thickness. Remove top paper. With a knife or cookie cutter, cut the dough into desired shapes. Transfer onto baking sheet (with bottom parchment paper).
Bake for 20-25 minutes (depending on thickness of the crackers) 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.
Continue Reading>>