20 December, 2013

Grain Free Sweet Potato Brownies

The year is coming to a close. Everybody seems to be wrapped up in the Christmas frenzy. Although I have been living in Dubai for 10 years, and have spent 9 Christmasses (is that the right plural form?) in warm weather, I still find it hard getting into the festive mood.

At least the tree is up. Two weeks ago, my daughter had the great idea of putting it up on the day I got up at 4:30 in the morning to run a half marathon. You may imagine that putting up Christmas trees after such morning activities is not very high on your priority list. Nevertheless, we did it and I am glad we did.
Last week, my daughter (she is 5 years old, btw) had the great idea of making a gingerbread house from scratch. Off I went at 8am to buy missing ingredients. She lost interest after about 45 minutes. I finished around 2pm. I don't regret it though. I love the smell of gingerbread. No-one is allowed to eat it yet.

I mentioned in previous years that December coincides with the toughest training weeks for the Dubai marathon. On top of that, in December we have the world's most beautiful half marathon on in Dubai. A must for every runner in Dubai. It's not a fast course. And December mornings can still be warm and humid. I had a 1:30:00 time in mind. Conditions were anything but ideal, so I threw my target times overboard and stopped looking at my Garmin all the time. That was deliberating. I just went at paces that FELT right. Despite the warm temperatures and humidity I managed a time of 1:32:57, a PB by two seconds (a PB is a PB, isn't it), and finished 6th lady overall out of about 500, and 2nd in my age group for which I got a trophy.
Me and my trophy
In the week following the half marathon I ran two more races, the above mentioned 5k race and another 7k fun race, while continuing to hitting high mileages as required by the marathon training program. After the 7k fun race, which was a disaster time-wise (not a surprise really), I was finished. My legs were heavy as lead and running no fun anymore. I am glad I came out of these 10 days without injury, as it would have been the perfect recipe.

Rest was all I needed. I didn't even go to the gym for strength training. I needed energy for the upcoming 32k and 35k runs as part of my marathon training. Those 30+k runs are very important both mentally and physically. They'd give me the confidence that I could run the 42k in a months time.

Even after having successfully run four marathons in the past three years which obviously proves that I am able to run the distance, I need these 30+k training runs to have the confidence once again. I would not be happy with just doing a couple of 29k runs. Funny isn't it?
The 32k run is in the bag since yesterday. I signed up for the Dubai Marathon afterwards. The 35k are planned for Boxing Day. Probably just what I need after Christmas lunch. If I get these 35k done without falling sick or injuring myself, it will be my first uninterrupted marathon training in two years. That is a very motivating thought. And yes, I do believe I can do my 3:10:00 this time. It's my second try after all. In Dubai I will not have to squeeze my way through the streets with tens of thousands of other runners like I did in Berlin.

In a nutshell, it's all coming together nicely at the end of the year. With the Christmas tree up and a Gingerbread House made from scratch, a half marathon and 5k PB in the bag, and the crucial part of the marathon training coming to an successful end, I thought I have to share all those news with a healthy treat. Who celebrates with Tabouli? No-one!! I will pester you with the really healthy stuff only in the New Year.

Today's recipe are Grain Free Sweet Potato Brownies. I have baked them several times in the past few week. I shouldn't call it a snack, but it has become my favorite one in the afternoon before my evening runs. Serve them warm with some vanilla ice cream and they are a killer dessert!

(Print Recipe)

1 cup cold sweet potato puree
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
 4 eggs

1/4 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1/3 cup cocoa powder

Yields 16
Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Line a 20x20cm baking tray with parchment paper.

In a bowl, sift together coconut and tapioca flour, baking soda and cocoa powder. Set aside.

Add sweet potato puree, apple sauce, coconut oil, honey and vanilla extract to the bowl of a food processor. Blend until smooth. Add one egg at a time and pulse until incorporated. Combine dry and wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Transfer batter to prepared baking tray and bake for about 40 minutes or until cake tester comes out clean.
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04 December, 2013

Cashew Coconut Cauliflower Rice And Rocket Leaves

Unless you have been living in a cave for the past few years, you must have heard of the paleo or primal diet. It's the diet our ancestors used to have which consisted mainly of fish, grass-fed pasture raised meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit, and nuts.

To me, it is not so much important what the paleo diet allows, as to what it excludes: that is all grains, legumes, dairy products, refined sugar and salt and processed oils. The foods that are excluded are the ingredients that convenience foods are made of: pasta, pies, cakes, sweets, crisps, chocolates, ice cream ..... It's all the sugars and starches that are off the plan. They are the ones that play havoc with people's metabolism. They are the ones that lay the foundation for all lifestyle diseases.

The restricted list of permitted foods make it easy to lose weight and to keep it off. In all those moments when you used to grab one of the above mentioned convenience foods, you have to find something else. It takes planning, perhaps a bit more home-cooking. You gotta be prepared for snack attacks. Perhaps you have to change your eating habits altogether, in terms of meal times and portion sizes. Perhaps you will feel more comfortable with three square meals that get you through the day instead of constant calorie-counted little snacks that make you look for food again a couple of hours later.
Your body will be grateful and your overall well-being will improve drastically, as you suddenly won't feel bloated, sluggish and tired: feelings that you got used to over years or even decades. Only when they gone, you will realize how much they dragged you down.

My latest favorite paleo dish happens to be vegan too. A combination that I like the most. It's cauliflower rice, spiced with a variety of anti-inflammatory spices and some green leaves stirred in at the end to add some color. I have been making this dish numerous times in the past few weeks. It's the perfect lunch, a good salad to accompany BBQ, or can even be used instead of a grainy side dish. It can be made in big batches as keeps well in the fridge. It's good hot or cold.

Most importantly, I put it in front of my grain-loving husband and let him taste. For nothing in the world he would have guessed that it was cauliflower he was eating. Now that the dish has been approved internally, I will dish it up for our BBQs with friends over the Dubai winter. I bet it will be a winner.

(Print Recipe )

1 medium head cauliflower, cut into florets

1/2 tablespoon coconut oil
1 red onion, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste

1/2 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup raw cashew nuts

1/2 cup rocket leaves, or other green leaves (e.g. parsley)

Serves 4
In a food processor, pulse the cauliflower florets until they have the size of rice grains. Alternatively, grate the cauliflower on a handheld cheese grater. Set aside.

In a skillet, heat coconut oil over medium heat. Add chopped onions and fry until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Add in spices, then stir in cauliflower rice until it has taken on the color of the turmeric. Add cashews nuts and coconut milk. Simmer over medium low heat for about 10 minutes, or until all liquid has been absorbed. Take off the heat and stir in rocket leaves and parsley. Let stand for a few minutes until wilted. Ready to serve.
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