29 May, 2014

Roasted Beetroot and Apple Salad

Not much wisdom to share today. Just a lovely summer salad of beetroot, apples and celery that I keep on making. The textures of these three ingredients provide layers, and so do their flavors: earthy from the beetroot, tart and fruity from the apple and that indescribable taste of celery just adds enough counterbalance to the rather sweet beetroot and apple. The lemon juice and honey in the dressing bring out all those flavors.

I love to make big batches of this salad and keep it in the fridge. You'll find me eating it straight out of the container standing in front of the fridge. That's how good and refreshing it is. Top it up with some crumbled feta cheese or roasted walnuts if you want to make it really fancy.
I hope you enjoy.


(Print Recipe)

4 medium beets
2 green apples
3 celery stalks

1 lemon, juice of

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
salt and pepper to taste

Garnish (optional)
crumbled feta cheese
chopped roasted walnuts

Serves  4
Preheat oven to 220C/430F.

Wash the beets and roast them in the oven until tender, depending on their size between 20 and 30 minutes. Set aside to let cool.

Meanwhile, core and thinly slice the apples. Cut the slices into matchsticks and toss them in the lemon juice. Cut the celery into matchsticks and add them to the apples.

Peel the beets, and cut them into matchsticks too. Add to apples and celery.

Whisk olive oil and honey together. Season with salt and pepper. Pour dressing over the salad and mix until well coated. Keep the salad refrigerated for at least 20 minutes for the flavors to combine. Best served cold.
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15 May, 2014

Lentil Pomegranate Salad with Cucumber Ribbons

Do you ever eat out with people in restaurants or cafes, and the people you are with order the smallest of salads or custumize-order a regular dish in a way so that's basically nothing left? Or when they order a regular dish, they tell you they feel full after having eaten less than half of it?

At the same time, these people don't look like they survive easily on cucumber and celery sticks. Many people seem to produce awkward manners when eating in public. They feel obliged to show a huge amount of self-control when it comes to food choices and portion size when they are feeling watched.

What are they trying to prove? A salad made of green leaves and fresh veggies may be healthy lunch choice. But every fool knows it will not last you until dinner. So prevent the mid-afternoon trip to the bakery next door,  to the soda machine or avoid the chocolate drawer at your desk by having a square meal.

That should apply to all meals in the day. Each of the three big meals should last you roughly or with just a small snack in between to the next big meal. It's proven that skipping a meal will just make you over-proportionally hungry at the next mealtime and you are more than likely to overeat. That gets you back to Square One. 

It takes a bit of discipline to stick to three main meals per day. But it should be the rule with just the occasional exception. It's not always practical as people commute, have busy jobs, kids to drop off and pick up, and family and other commitments.

Here is my offer for a square salad that is still light enough tio be enjoyed on warm summer days but has enough substance to last you through an afternoon. Earthy lentils, tart pomegranates with fresh cucumber and a good handful of chopped toasted walnuts held together by a tahini lemon dressing. I find the layers of flavors and textures absolutely tantalizing. I hope you do to. And please, tell me that you eat square meals, made out of good and real ingredients!


(Print Recipe)

1 cup green lentils
2 1/2 cups water
1 bay leaf

1 pomegranate, seeds of
2 small cucumbers

1/4 cup roasted walnuts, chopped

1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
salt and pepper to taste

Serves 2 as main, 4 as side dish
Place lentils, water bay leaf and a dash of salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil, then simmer until lentils are cooked, about 15 minutes. Drain and remove bay leaf.

Meanwhile, deseed the pomegranate. Keep a bowl of water ready. Cut the pomegranate into quarters lengthwise.  Submerge one quarter of the pomegranate in the water bowl, pull apart the skin and nudge out the seeds into the water. Repeat with the other quarters. Little pieces of skin will float on top. Take these off before draining off the water. Set aside.

To make the cucumber ribbons, use a box grater and its largest hole. 

Cut the ends off the cucumber, then push lengthwise along the top of the grater, in long strokes for long, thin ribbons. Set aside.

In a small bowl, combine tahini, olive oil and lemon juice. Whisk vigorously until well combined. The dressing may look curdled. Just whisk more. Add water until dressing reaches desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper. 

In a salad bowl, combine cooked lentils and pomegranates. Stir in the the dressing until salad is well coated. Gently fold in the cucumber ribbons. Sprinkle over the roasted walnuts. Serve cold or at room temperature.
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05 May, 2014

Honey Frozen Yogurt with Pomegranate Swirl

It's getting hot in Dubai!! My dreams of hitting the last goal for this running season have been crushed by an early onset of incredible heat and humidity this summer. 

Every year, from end of April to beginning of June, we have a track competition series during which we run 5000m, 3000m, 1500m, 800m and a 4x400m relay on a track. The 5000m were scheduled for last Monday. In December I ran the unfortunate time of 20:01 on a hilly 5k course. Needless to say that I haven't stopped dreaming of breaking the magic 20 minute ever since.

5k races are scarce in Dubai. I had to wait til April when summer is definitely on its way. Before the race I looked up last year's weather at the 5000m on my Garmin stats. It was 26C/79F degrees. This year we were graced with 32C/89F degrees. Ouch!

The ladies team - still looking good before the race
Heat in combination with humidity is the biggest killer for any sort of speed.  Forget about your PBs. You will simply not be able to run a distance race at the same speed, as parts of your body's available energy will be used to keep your body temperature down. The problem gets worse with high humidity, as the cooling sweat produced by your body can not evaporate as easily from the skin. It's simple and pure survival mechanism that you slow down to prevent the body temperature from rising to dangerous limits. 

The ladies team after the race - slightly sweaty
As a result, I did worse than last year. But so did everyone else. My finish time was 20:34, way behind the sub 20min that I had dreamt of. An atrocious number. Nothing else but the weather was to blame. 

I recently saw statistics that the most marathon world records were run at temperatures between 6C/43F and 10C/50F. Obviously, the longer the distance is the more impact the weather has on your performance as your body available energies will have to be shared with the circumstances. 

However, I still enjoyed that 5k race despite the horrendous conditions. Once more it proved to me, that a good race is not just about the finish time. I ran an even pace throughout the race. Every time I manage to do that, I realize that this I finished at maximum heart rate, which is a good sign that I gave it all.

I enjoyed it so much  that I had a hard time to come down after I got home. Definitely the biggest downside of an evening race. I tried everything from red wine to ice cream.... I was still buzzing for a long time.

I admit I didn't eat healthy honey sweetened frozen yogurt. I had store-bought unhealthy chocolate ice cream. Yes, there you have it. But I share with you my latest frozen yogurt recipe. I love the original tangy flavor of the yogurt in this that is just laced with a fruity ribbon of pomegranate. What better way could there be to cool down in the summer. I hope you enjoy.
(Print Recipe) 
Honey Frozen Yogurt
4 cups whole milk yogurt (or 2 cups Greek yogurt)
4 tablespoons honey (or to taste)

Pomegranate Swirl
2 cups pomegranate seeds
4 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch (or grain free arrowroot powder)
Serves 6-8
Pomegranate Swirl
Place the pomegranate seeds in a food processor and pulse a few times, just so the arils release their juices. The seeds inside the seeds should stay intact.

Place the pomegranates, honey, lemon juice and cornstarch/arrowroot in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil. Simmer for a few minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool a little.
Strain through a sieve and discard the seeds.  Refrigerate sauce until thoroughly chilled.

Honey Frozen Yogurt
If you use regular whole milk yogurt, strain 4 cups of whole milk yogurt through a cheesecloth or clean kitchen towel for at least two hours. Discard the whey.

Whisk the honey into the strained or Greek.

Without  ice cream maker
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 again until almost solid. Scoop out the frozen mixture and place it into a food processor. Pulse until smooth. Transfer ice cream into a container suitable for freezing.

With ice cream maker
Transfer mixture to ice cream maker and follow its instructions. Transfer ice cream into a container suitable for freezing.

Pour the pomegranate sauce on top of the frozen yogurt. With a knife or a spoon, gently swirl the sauce into the frozen yogurt.

Cover and freeze until firm, about 2 hours. If you keep it frozen until completely solid, keep at room temperature to soften a bit before serving.
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