29 May, 2013

Spicy Roasted Cauliflower Tomato Salad with Raisins

If I could only pick one "health food" to have available for the rest of my life, it would be turmeric. Turmeric is the most powerful spice to me. I'll try and sprinkle it into anything I can.

I first got aware of the health benefits of turmeric when anti-inflammatory foods caught my eye. It made sense to me that many lifestyle-related health issues would have their root in long-term inflammation of the body.

Inflammation is the body's totally healthy response to injury and infection, a way of defending ourselves by sending immune cells and key nutrients to the areas that need them most. Long-term inflammation, however, can be quite dangerous. When inflammation as an immune response is never "shut off," so to speak, the constant production of immune cells can do permanent damage, leading to cancer, heart disease, arthritis and Alzheimer's among other health concerns.

Chronic inflammation can be caused by a sedentary lifestyle, lack of sleep,  or the foods that we choose to eat or not to eat. It will not come as a surprise that sugar, refined grains, vegetable oils, dairy, processed and red meats, food additives, and alcohol are highly inflammatory foods.

Now which are the most powerful anti-inflammatory foods? With regards to herbs and spices, it's definitely turmeric, but also parsley and ginger. For fruit, try blueberries and papaya. And for the vegetables, try and incorporate as much seaweed, broccoli, green leafy vegetables and some sweet potato into your diet. Have some walnuts or almonds as your snack between meals.

Today's salad is one of my summer staples this year: full of anti-inflammatory ingredients. It consists of a lot of well spiced veggies, that roast peacefully and without much work in the oven. The salad keeps well in the fridge, so it's worth making double or triple portions. It's hearty, satisfying, yet light and full of flavor. Perfect for the approaching summer and healthwise good for you all year round. I hope you enjoy!

(Print Recipe)

1 medium head of cauliflower
1 1/2 cups of cherry tomatoes, halved
2 red onions, cut into wedges
3 bay leaves

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 cup cooked chickpeas
2-3 tablespoons raisins
3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Serves 4
Preheat oven to 200C/400F.

In a small bowl, combine spices with olive oil and stir until well blended.

Cut the cauliflower into bite-sized florets. Pour the spice mixture over the cauliflower and stir until cauliflower is well coated. gently add in the tomato halves, onion wedges and bay leaves. Spread out the vegetables in a single layer on a baking sheet.
Roast for 20-25 minutes, or until cauliflower is starting to caramelize.

Transfer roasted vegetables to serving dish. Add cooked chickpeas and raisins. Sprinkle with chopped parsley for garnish. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Continue Reading>>

22 May, 2013

Vegan Cheezy Rosemary Roasted Chickpeas

I recently read an interesting article about the paleo diet hype. It pointed out that it is being marketed way overboard as to what the original meaning of the caveman's diet was supposed to be; simple foods, minimally processed with short cooking times or even eaten raw.

These days, you can find a vast amount of food blogs and cookbooks focusing on paleo recipes, or even more specifically, paleo desserts. The point of the article was that many of these blogs and cookbooks miss the point. While their ingredients are OK for a caveman's diet, the amount that is being used is beyond healthy. Think of cups full of coconut oils, nut meals, nut butters and honey that go into those sold-as-healthy paleo recipes. The sheer amount of these ingredients makes them very calorie-dense dishes that makes overeating almost unavoidable.

This is not really breaking news if you think about. But have you thought about it? It's actually quite easy and tempting to be lured into those hypes that make you believe you are doing something good to yourself . Along the way, you may loose touch with reality.

Moderation is the key. That's probably not new to you either. If you cook your dishes from scratch, you may have an idea how much nuts go into nut butter. If you look at the oil in your measuring cup, imagine having a few spoonfuls. Same with the honey or other sweetener. How appealing would these foods be when eaten separately and unprocessed. You would surely eat less than when they all combined and baked into some delicious cake or brownies.

This applies to my recipe today, roasted chickpeas, a delicious and healthy snack. While all ingredients - chickpeas, nutritional yeast, sea salt, rosemary and a little olive oil - are surely not unhealthy when eaten in moderation, it is quite easy to snack away on these and finish a whole can of chickpeas without even realizing. And that is not a full meal, it's still just a snack.

Do you get my point? You can still overeat or have health problems, or have problems to loose weight, when you follow one of these healthy diet hypes - be it vegan, paleo, gluten-free, etc. Common sense, listening to your body's signals and moderation shall help keep your health and weight under control.

(Print Recipe)

2 1/2  cups chickpeas, cooked and drained

4 tablespoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
4 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons olive oil

Serves 8
Preheat oven to 180C/375F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and stir until chickpeas are evenly coated. Spread the chickpeas in one layer on a baking sheet. Better results are being achieved if the chickpeas are not too crowded. Roast in preheated oven for 60 to 75 minutes ( or even longer), depending on size of the chickpeas. They are ready when they are crunchy, and not chewy anymore.

If the chickpeas loose the crispness after a day or too, roast them again at 165C/350F for 10-15 minutes and leave them in the warm/switched-off oven for another 15-20minutes.
Continue Reading>>

16 May, 2013

Chakalaka - Spicy Tomato Pepper Relish

Chakalaka is a South African tomato-based relish that has its origins in the townships of Johannesburg. 10 years ago, I was living in Johannesburg for a year and stayed at a vegetarian bachelor's house. The fridge was always empty, apart from a few lonely vegetables. But there was always chakalaka in the house. The  jarred version, but never mind. My vegetarian bachelor's friend was not much of a cook.

For dinner we'd cook some of those lonely vegetables and then drown them in chakalaka sauce. As far as I can remember, we didn't even have any grains or the otherwise very typical South African pap with it. We ate it more like a vegetable stew.
It is an awesome sauce, very versatile as you could use it as a dip with cracker, as a relish over grilled meat (not in that vegetarian bachelor's house though) or over pap. I got to taste many versions of it at various BBQs, which the South African claim they are world champions in.

There are versions with beans in it which makes it more a stand-alone meal. I prefer the simpler version with lots of green peppers: they give an otherwise regular tomato sauce (let's be honest, that's what it is) a refreshing summer kick. Then spice it up with as much chili as you like. A simple but incredibly delicious relish. Enjoy!

(Print Recipe)

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 green peppers, deseeded and cut into 1-inch sticks
6 tomatoes, finely chopped

2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon mixed dried herbs
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon chili powder (or to taste)

Serves 6
In a medium pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Fry onions for a few minutes, until softened. Add garlic and peppers and fry for another few minutes. Stir in chopped tomatoes and tomato paste. Season with herbs, curry powder, chili and sea salt.
Cover with lid and simmer over low heat for 15-20 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Serve hot or cold as a dip with crackers, or as a sauce over grilled meat or pap or polenta.
Continue Reading>>

08 May, 2013

Broccoli Cauliflower Pancakes with Tahini Raita

Not long ago, I very proudly announced 1.000 Likes of the Anja's Food 4 Thought Facebook page. To be exact, that was in November 2012. By then, I had blogged for more than three years.

Today, only 6 months later, I have reached 2.000 Likes. That is just amazing. Thank you!

I am especially proud of this number because I never forced anyone to "like" me on FB by participating in competitions or give-aways. In fact, I only had one give-away ever on my blog. Some of you may remember it: it was a one-print cookbook with recipes of mine. Someone in America won it. I sent it off with registered mail, but sadly it never arrived.

These 2.000 Likes are as organic as can be.
Regular readers may have noticed, I am pretty unsocial when it comes to social media. I hardly ever have more to say than the announcement of a new recipe on the blog. My twitter tweets are automated too. I actually never go onto twitter. Because I can't deal with so much useless information. I sometimes struggle to wade through my emails, many of them of no use or real or personalized information either. I also don't have a smartphone.

I see people on their phones all the time. I see couples in restaurants and cafe. They don't talk to each other, as each one is busy with their phone. I always wonder what they are checking. It cannot seriously be life-or-death information that's coming in on a constant stream. Or is it?

Why on earth would you be rather checking your FB page or your emails than talking to your partner or friend that you are meeting for lunch? Call me old-fashioned, but I don't get it.

Therefore, and perhaps this is even why some of you like my blog and FB page, I will keep my information output on Anja's Food 4 Thought and my FB page for real and relevant information. This is a recipe blog after all. I will not post on my blog if I don't have a recipe. I will not post on FB just to ask how you are today or what you are having for lunch. Imagine all 2.000 of you would reply.... I'd probably realize that I don't really want to know.

Perhaps I should have had a chocolate cake recipe to celebrate the 2.000 Likes. Instead I am presenting to you a real successful paleo pancake recipe. It's filled with cauliflower and broccoli. It's holding together beautifully with a mixture of eggs and coconut flour. It is very satisfying and light at the same time. It's very quick and easy to make. It can be extra refreshing with a yogurt dip and a salad on the side. 
These pancakes will surely be one of my lunchtime staples over the summer. Enjoy!


(Print Recipe)

1 1 /2 cups cauliflower florets
1 1/2 cups broccoli florets

4 eggs
2 tablespoons coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon  ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes

olive oil

Tahini Raita (non-paleo)
1 cup yogurt
2 tablespoons tahini
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup cucumber, finely chopped

Yields 4-6/Serves 2
In a food processor, rice the cauliflower and the broccoli. Set aside.
Beat the eggs. Stir in salt, cumin and chili flakes. Then whisk in the coconut flour until mixture is lump free. Stir in the riced broccoli and cauliflower.

Lightly coat a frying pan with olive oil and heat over medium heat. Spoon about 1/2 cup of pancake mixture into the pan and spread out to the size of a CD and 1/4 inch thickness. Fry on each side until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Repeat until all batter is used up.

Serve immediately with some Tahini Raita and a fresh salad.

Tahini Raita
Stir tahini and salt into yogurt until well combined. Add chopped cucumbers. Serve cold from the fridge for extra freshness.
Continue Reading>>

01 May, 2013

Spring Favorites 2013

As Spring should be in full swing in most places of in the northern hemisphere, I think it's time for another seasonal recipe round-up. Believe it or not, I don't go through my own recipes often enough. More often than not, I stick to the same old recipes (that I know by heart) while other good ones get lost and forgotten although they surely deserve more exposure. Needless to say that all the recipes below are superbly tasty and good for you.

My spring round-up this year turns out to be 100% vegetarian and grain free (if you allow buckwheat to be counted as a seed - as it is being used in the spinach tart and the lemon cake). It mirrors the two general directions in my diet that I feel most strongly about. These are dishes that make me feel healthy, energetic, strong, lean and satisfied.

Here they are, in alphabetical order:

Broccoli Pistachio Soup:
there is many people who don't like soups when the weather gets warmer. This soup, however, is very light, yet full of flavor. The ground pistachios in there give it a cheesy taste, while being 100% dairy free. One of my new favorites.

Cauliflower with Mustard Seeds:
Cauliflower (besides broccoli) is probably one of the most difficult vegetables to feed to children. It's all a question of seasoning: with the right spices (and yes, the chili can be adjusted) you can make the blandest veggies interesting.

Chocolate Olive Oil Cake:
This is by far our favorite chocolate cake. It's grain free, it uses palm sugar and olive oil (instead of copious amounts of butter and refined sugar). It's always gone within a day. And it's super versatile. Two layers of it with some chocolate ganache coating makes a very good birthday cake too.

Citrus Salad with Pomegranates and Mint:
Summer, here we come. Spring in Dubai means temperatures around 30C/86F. Warm enough for simple, light and refreshing fruits or fruit salads.
Raw, full of natural tang and sweetness.

Gluten-Free Spinach Goat Cheese Tart:
This is one of the recipes (as mentioned above) that deserves more exposure, as it is simply delicious and full of goodness. A gluten free tart shell filled with all the goodness of spinach, the strong flavors of goat cheese and and crunch of walnuts. Leftovers can be eaten as snacks or fill a lunchbox the next day.

Grandma's Sweet and Sour Cucumber Salad:
Another refreshing and cooling salad, best be eaten cold from the fridge.  It's been a staple at my grandma's house, for as long as I can think. A true keeper.

Lemon Zucchini Cake:
Spring would not be spring without a lemon recipe. Lemon epitomizes Spring. And what would be a better place to use the flavors of lemon than a grain free cake that also has some hidden vegetables in it? Exactly, there is no better place.

Moroccan Spiced Roasted Mushrooms:
Another recipe from the category "How to make boring vegetables more interesting". Yes, you guessed it right: by spicing them. I love this recipe, because it's hardly any effort to make. And a delicious light meal or side dish at any time for any occasion.

Paleo Summer Wraps with Tahini:
Spring in Dubai is like summer in other places. Cool and refreshing, yet satisfying and filling meals and dishes need to be produced in vast quantities for several months. I particularly like the filling of these wraps consisting of chopped avocado, cucumber, some green leaves, chopped almonds - all held together by a tahini sauce.

Vanilla Frozen Yogurt:
What would spring and approaching summer be without ice cream? My ice cream maker hasn't stopped working much over winter. But now it will have to get ready for some extra shifts. My kids love this vanilla-flavored plain frozen yogurt. Just three ingredients needed: yogurt, honey, vanilla.

Enjoy spring!
Continue Reading>>