Sunday, 10 December 2017

CHOCOLATE SABLES (AU CHOCOLAT) WITH PISTACHIOS


     Trying to get your life together is really tougher the older you get. I have told myself a hundred times that I can't control everything that happens to me, no matter how much I fight for the opposite. However, life has taught me so many times that what is inevitable will happen, the same way that the sun will rise in the morning, every morning. But, this all seems too pessimistic for a creative and romantic nature like myself. I cannot think that my efforts have no meaning or that they will never appear themselves as gifts from God. 
     The previous two months have been hectic and that was obvious if you only looked at my face. Breakouts of hormonal acne as if I was 15 again (although I am a mature woman of 28), crazy and surreal talks about "where do we go from here?" and the insatiable need to know what will happen next and, yes, what can we do about it? This constant battle has led me to constant bad mood and as any other artist out there knows, bad mood kills the creativity. Because it was the kind of bad mood that doesn't let you think about anything else than your "real" problems. 
     But what are "real" problems? Why can't "not finding the perfect macaron in Zurich" be a real problem? And I'm not trying to make you laugh or consider me a nut case. It is a real problem, if you love those little things. Before anyone attacks me, I know that "luxemburgli" are just as tiny (a little more) and cute, but to me they don't quite taste the same. They are very close to the real thing, but almost. Like a lover of realism that I am, I need the real thing to satisfy my appetite. 



     Among all the previous negativity you just read (or not), I managed to find some inspiration and appetite for a sweet thing at last. When I hear the word cookie, I always get the image of "the cookie monster". This blue muppet that loves cookies as if they are gold or something. It's really silly, but I connect cookies with childhood memories and it's always nice to hear the word. Now, there are different varieties of cookies. The soft, the crunchy, the goey, the nutty, the "crunchy on the outside, soft in the inside", the ones your mum used to make, the ones that smell like Christmas etc etc. I am more of the "crunchy on the outside, soft in the inside" kind of person. So, I decided to please my cookie cravings.
     The French have a recipe for everything, right? And cookies are not an exception. In the name of "sablé" the French have managed to create a cookie buttery enough, but not too much. A little elegant, you might say. It was the first time I tried to make these little ones and when I started I thought it would be easy and quick. But no. It was a little demanding and definitely not quick. It was worth it though!



    The recipe is only for 15 cookies, because I didn't want to make a lot and store them, as they tend to become a bit soggy. I prefer to eat them up to two weeks and then make new ones (or not). Fresh bakes cookies are the best if you ask me! However, these ones keep very fresh for up to a week. They are soft on the inside and have a deep chocolate flavour without tasting too much butter. For the pistachios, I suggest you get good quality, because it makes a big difference. I got mine from Aigina, Greece, an island close to Athens that has a big production of the best pistachios you will ever eat. Ok, let's move on with the recipe...

 Chocolate Sablés (au chocolat) with Pistachios

ingredients (for 12 to 15 cookies)

100gr dark chocolate (at least 70%)
50gr sugar
75gr butter at room temperature
100gr flour
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 cup slightly choped pistachios
small round cookie cutter (or use a glass with small diameter)

how do I make it?

1. In an electric mixer, mix together the butter and sugar until they become soft. Using a microwave or a "bain-marie" (pan with boiled water and a heat proof bowl on top), melt the chocolate until it becomes a soft and rich mix. When you use microwave, be careful to not overheat it. First, heat chocolate for 30 seconds, take it out and stir it and then heat it up for another 20 seconds if the chocolate is not completely melted.
2. Once your chocolate is ready, add it to the butter-sugar mixture with the egg yolk and mix again until everything is combined. Add vanilla and cinnamon and mix again.
3. Now, pour inside the flour and baking soda and mix some more. If the batter becomes a bit tough for your mixer, stop it, and use your hands to finish the mixing. You should get a kind of soft and a little moist texture. Add the crushed pistachios inside and mix again.
4. Transfer the batter to a clean bowl, cover and put in the fridge for 2 hours. Drink some coffee while waiting...
5. Take out your dough, roll it with a roller up to 2 cm height. Using a cookie cutter or a glass, cut small round shapes of cookies. Using a spatula try to lift the cookies without ruining their shape and transfer them to a pan with baking paper on. Do the same steps until you have no dough left. Be quite quick and gentle, because the dough tends to melt into your hands the more you use it. Make sure to keep the cookies apart from each other as they will expand while baking.
6. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes to 180C preheated oven.
7. When 10 minutes have passed take them out of the oven and let them cool completely. Don't touch them, as they are very sensitive while hot.
8. You can enjoy them as they are, or melt some extra chocolate, drizzle the top of the cookies and add some more crushed pistachions.

Enjoy with milk!




Saturday, 25 November 2017

FRENCH TARTE TATIN (APPLE TART)


      How quickly time passes us? Not long ago, I was talking to my friends in Greece and planning what we're going to do during Christmas time in Athens, and now it's only 4 weeks until I go back for Christmas time. The best time of the year (after summer)! It just feels so cozy, so warm and so comforting being with friends and family. Your mum still treats you like a baby (although you are 28), your grandmother is thrilled to see you again (who treats you like you're a newborn and in need of attention). Everyone is happy, everyone is eating holiday cookies and all is jolly.
     Not so quickly...there are people that this year and maybe the previous as well, didn't have the chance to experience all this joyous time. I am talking about people that have lost their home due to some sort of devastating incident (recently a lot of people in Athens lost their homes due to floods) or other are all alone in this world. With this thought, I would like to say that instead of buying expensive things this holiday, and with Black Friday yesterday, give your money to help these people that need us. 



     On another note, I had an unending want the previous week to do something with all these apples I had at home. First thought was to make a simple apple tart or a pie, you call it how you want. But then I felt like challenging myself and decided to have a go at a tarte tatin, the french delicate reversed tart. The French love it and I have to give it to them, they are masters when it comes to tarts. And this reversed tart is no different. If you like experimenting and aren't afraid to make a mess in the kitchen, this one is for you.
     My boyfriend loved it, he said that it was better than he expected it to be and the apple slices were perfectly cooked. What I found was a bit strange is that around the internet everyone was doing it quite differently. For example, some would cook the apples while cooking the butter with sugar. Others (like this recipe), first cooked the butter with sugar to make a buttery sauce and then they would put the apple slices on top and cook immediately in the oven. I think this works the best, especially if you don't handle well the heat and aren't experienced in cooking sugar.


Classic French Tarte Tatin

ingredients (for 6 to 8 persons)

500gr pate brisée (buttery dough)
3 to 4 apples
150gr butter (cut in pieces)
170gr sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

how do I make it?

1. In a large pan pour the sugar and start heating it on medium heat. You will need to stir quite often in the beginning so that the sugar doesn't stick on the pan. You want the sugar to caramelise and become a golden liquid. This takes a few minutes. When the sugar has melted completely take off the heat. After a few seconds, pour in the butter and vanilla and start stirring quickly to combine the butter with the sugar syrup. Be quick, otherwise you might create a sticky mess on the pan. There should be a thick sauce on the pan, like a thickened syrup. 
2. Using a medium pan for the oven or a pan for tarts, pour inside the buttery sauce you have created in the previous step. Then, take your apples and start peeling them off. Cut in half and take out the cores. Try to cut them in thin slices (not too thin) and start placing them on top of the sauce on the pan. I tried to do it in a circling motion, placing every slice next to each other. You should have at least two layers of apple slices. If you wish to have more apples, it's up to you. I used 3 apples for 2 layers of slices.
3. When you are done, take your dough and on a clean surface try to shape it into a round shape. It should be about 1cm thick, but don't overstress about this. Just make sure it's not super thick. Once done, place the dough on top of the apple slices. If the dough exceeds the barriers of the pan, just use a knife to cut the exceeding dough. With your hands, press the dough at the sides of the pan, so that when the tart is baking there won't be juices coming from the sides.
4. Place your pan in the oven and bake for up to 40 minutes at 180C or until the dough is golden brown. Take out of the oven and let it cool for up to 10 minutes. When you wish to eat it, simply use a large plate, put on top of the pan and very carefully try to reverse the pan, so that the dough is on top of the plate. Be very careful with this step. You can sprinkle some powdered sugar on top if you want. 





Wednesday, 8 November 2017

MINI RAW BITES WITH PEANUT BUTTER AND CHOCOLATE


     Another week went by quickly without me realising it. There are too many things on my mind, but I don't think it's because of how "Oh look at me, I am so busy right now!" I am. I believe it has more to do with lack of sleep and some missing self-care. The only thing I tend not to forget is...food. Food no matter what is always on my mind. That's why during my internship, I try to make lots of treats and have them at house or take some with me where I work.
     It came to me the other day, that I didn't have anything with chocolate prepared and the plain dark chocolate was becoming too boring to eat almost every day. I wanted to try this recipe for a long time and now I had some really good dates hanging around in my pantry waiting to be eaten. So, then I realised that I should try making some raw and healthier kind of "snickers". Yeah, you read that right. Snickers! My favourite type of candy in childhood and still (although I almost don't eat it anymore).



     If you have some extra time in your hands, try to make this one. I find that the whole recipe is almost meditating and relaxing. There is something about the feeling of making something with your hands I cannot explain. The same happens to me when I crack open peanut shells. This recipe, however, is more enjoyable and delicious as simple peanuts. It is also vegan-friendly, for anyone going Vegan any time soon or is already. A lot of people in my Instagram feed are giving it a go this week, so maybe this recipe is perfect for them as well.

Mini raw bites with Peanut Butter and Chocolate

ingredients (for 15 bites)

15 large Medjool dates
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter and some more
100 gr dark chocolate
1 tablespoon coconut oil
pinch of sea salt
pinch of black pepper

How do I make it?

1. First step, take out the pit off the dates using a sharp knife.Slice the date in the middle and simply take out the pit. If they are unpitied, you can skip this step.
2. With a small teaspoon, take one date, try opening it slightly and put a tiny amount of peanut butter inside. You need about half teaspoon for each date.
3. Repeat the same step for every date. When you are done, put all the dates on a plate or small pan and put them in the freezer for 1 hour.
4. After an hour, in a large pan put the chocolate and coconut oil. On medium heat, melt the chocolate until it has a nice consistency. Remove from heat once melted.
5. Take out the dates and dip each inside the melted chocolate. Using a spoon try to move around the date and coat the whole thing in chocolate.
6. Place again each chocolate coated date on a pan with paper parchment. Put in the fridge for at least an hour or best overnight.


Friday, 3 November 2017

WARM PORRIDGE WITH COCONUT MILK AND PUMPKIN


     When everything goes bad and I feel like I'm in a desperate need for a change, I turn into the nature. Just by taking a few moments to look around the beautiful world we are living in, we can see that our problems might be so small. There are so many bad things happening these days to people, animals, nature and every other aspect of this cycle called life. If we only stopped caring for ourselves and only, we would see what's going on around the world and try to care more for our neighbour in need.
     Now, you may think I'm talking nonsense and don't have an example myself to give. Well, I may not donate money or volunteer to build houses in poor areas, but I believe that it starts with the person sitting next to you. Start talking to them. Or better to your family and friends. Another powerful thing to do is to share food. I mean, that's the greater power of it, to connect people around a table. It was, has been and will be the best way to get to know someone. People don't lie when they are eating, they are true. 





     Which brings me to a wonderful recipe I made this Wednesday. If you are a frequent reader you may know my love for porridge. Other people find it plain and boring, I find it...well plain and boring if you're not using lots of toppings. Truth must be said! I was looking for recipes with pumpkin around the blogosphere to get some inspiration and came across Local Milk's own recipe of Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal. She is such an amazing photographer and blogger, only seeing her photos makes you hungry. Her recipe for sure inspired the one I created that morning, especially the cooking part of the oats.
    Even if you don't love oatmeal so much, you should try this one out. I used coconut milk, because I find it gives this creamy texture to your porridge and just to anything to be honest. It's my go-to for carry, pumpkin soup, smoothies and sometimes even cakes. Nothing wrong will happen when you use coconut milk. And then the pumpkin, really gives this porridge a 5 star grading. With every bite you feel the sweet flavour of pumpkin and the spices paired perfectly together.

Warm Porridge with Coconut Milk and Pumpkin

ingredients (for 2 to 3 persons)

1 cup oats
1 cups coconut milk (at least 60% coconut flesh)
3 cups water
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup honey or maple syrup
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
pinch of salt

toppings: dried fruit (cranberries, saltanas), crunchy granola, nuts, nut butters, coconut milk

How do I make it?

1.Fill a medium pan with the oats, coconut milk and water. Stir for a little bit and then cover the pan, while cooking the oats on low heat for 10 minutes. Every 5 minutes lift the lid of the pan and stir the oats, then cover again.
2. After the 10 minutes have passed, add the pumpkin puree and mix it very well in the oats. This will perhaps be difficult because the oats will have become sticky (not dry though). Cover the pan again and cook for another 8 minutes (again lift the lid and mix a little bit the oats).
3. Uncover the pan and add inside all the spices and honey. You want to do this at the last part to give the porridge a kick. Mix the porridge really well with a big spoon to make sure everything is mixed together.
4. Pour the porridge into desired bowls. I prefer deep and small bowls, because they keep the porridge warm for longer. You can add your favourite toppings on top. I added some dried cranberries and two tablespoons of crunchy granola. But I think you can also eat it plain. Just add some more honey on top and you are ready to go!


Wednesday, 25 October 2017

GINGERSNAP CAKE WITH BOURBON


     "If it isn't smelling like Fall, I am not eating it!" This could be a representing line of this years favourite season (for some of us). When you are a foodie at heart and a real lover of Autumn's best foods, then you really give your effort to try as many recipes as you can. Like myself, last Sunday when I tried to make for the first time apple cider donuts. However, since I had no donut hole pan, I did the obvious...tried to shape donut doughs. As you can already guess (and laugh at my attempt), this did not go well at all. I ended up with flattened out baked doughs of nothing! How great!
     In other news, I made a delicious pumpkin soup with carrots and potatoes as well and devoured it the whole week. I'm thinking of making a pumpkin pie next week that I haven't eaten for so long. When it comes to pies and pretty much anything I bake, I like to make everything from scratch. That means, even the buttery pie dough. I know that a lot of people use prepackaged ones, but I am a true believer of eating almost zero packaged food. It is an issue that bothers me quite a lot, because sometimes you just want to eat the damn cookie! But most of the times, I am the crazy lady reading the list of the ingredients and don't buy something unless I understand all of the ingredients.



     I always felt like an outsider when it comes to food and exercise. This is the first time I am saying this here, but there used to be a time when I was overweight. I don't like to use the f word, cause really who am I to judge? Especially my own self. Since that time I completely changed my lifestyle, going from eating junk food and lots of sweets, to eating fruit, vegetables and a hell lot amount of oatmeal. Although I am at a great stable weight for years, I feel a bit conscious about my food, where it comes from, how it has been processed. But now, it has more to do with a healthy living and not so much with losing weight.   
  Back a few years I wanted to get into Nutrition studies, after I majored from Nursing Sciences. I keep myself informed with new health trends, superfoods and a lot of health related news, but I adopt very few in my daily living for several reasons, the most important being...very few things work on everyone's body. No matter how healthy we eat, we exercise, we keep up with certain diets, in the end if we experience stress and unhappiness in our lives, then it will backfire everything.
     Few of my friends always ask me "How do you do it? How do you manage to cook, go to University, work and manage a blog, while being healthy?" I feel kind of bad when they ask me that, because I have no answer. I just do it. I don't feel like it's a big accomplishment.  And there are days that I eat Nutella out of the jar (ask my boyfriend). My point here is that trying to eat healthy does take some effort and commitment. But the goal is to be happy and feel great, not over stress ourselves about it.




     Now to the fun part of recipe. There is nothing better than plain old cake with your morning coffee, right? Also, there is nothing more delicious than a Gingersnap cake with a hint of bourbon inside. A simple recipe for all you folks who enjoy eating cake with a lot of ginger and spices. The initial intention was to use butter for this recipe. However, I find that olive oil makes every cake moist and not dry at all, so whenever I can, I incorporate it into recipes. 

Gingersnap cake with Bourbon

ingredients

3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup olive oil
3/4 cup honey
2 eggs
1 cup water
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons Bourbon
icing sugar


how do I make it?

1. In a large bowl mix together honey and olive oil for about a minute or until smooth. Then start adding your eggs one at a time, mixing well after each adding. Finally add the Bourbon and mix for a few seconds again.
2. In another bowl, mix together your flour, ginger, cinnamon and ground cloves. Take the bowl in the first step and start pouring its content to this bowl, mixing with a spatula or spoon until you've added all the mixture.
3. Boil the water and place the baking soda in a smaller bowl. Once the water is boiled, pour in into the baking soda, while stirring with a spoon. Then transfer the hot mixture into your previous mixture and mix again with a spatula.
4. Preheat oven to 180 C and place a baking paper into your pan. You will need a medium to large rectangular pan. Pour the batter carefully into the pan and let it sit for a couple of minutes.
5. Bake your cake for 35-40 minutes or until it has a golden surface and a toothpick inserted into it comes out clean.
6. Let it cool completely and then coat it into a lot of icing sugar.






Friday, 6 October 2017

PUMPKIN SPICE BREAKFAST MUFFINS


     Oh the sweet breeze of autumn wind. The hot cup of hazelnut latte you are dying to drink once the first leaves start to fall. It's autumn again and everything starts feeling like it should be. Autumn feels like a new beginning for me, especially around this time. It's one of the best times of the year if you think of it as a passage to Christmas or until the new year comes.
     It's also the year pumpkins come around in all shapes and sizes. In my home country, Greece, we don't incorporate them that much into our dishes, perhaps, maybe into some savoury fyllo pie. But abroad and especially here in Switzerland, I noticed them everywhere I went. There is even a pumpkin farm close to Zurich, where one can go and find...pumpkins of course, among other delicacies made with pumpkins.



    Before I get further into the pumpkin conversation, I wanted to say that we are going on vacation next week to the magical country of Scotland! We are visiting Edinburgh with my boyfriend and we couldn't be more excited about it. I am already picturing in my mind the green hills and mountains, the moody, but beautiful houses and cottages. The food...although it contains a lot of meat and eggs, I feel I have to experience it as well. 
    I have already asked around friends that either have been there or lived there, so I already have my notes on where to go and where to eat. After some really hard and difficult time in September, I am ready to go on vacation and enjoy myself, without thinking about life, work and all that very serious, but stressful things.



    So this new recipe I have created, as you might have guessed from my previous rant, includes pumpkin. I decided to make some muffins, since they are easily eaten and they don't need a lot of preparation. Lately, time is very important to me! Also, I made them a little healthy and breakfast-friendly, since I am trying to cut on added sugar and incorporate mashed banana anywhere. Apart from it having a sweet taste, it gives your mixture a stickiness that is needed, without making it too dense. 
     Here in Switzerland, I haven't yet found canned pumpkin. I think this is only found in America or maybe somewhere else as well. But if you are like me and you need to roast or boil your pumpkin to get a pumpkin puree, then maybe you need to do this a day before, if you don't have so much time in one day.

Pumpin Spice Breakfast Muffins

ingredients (for 12 muffins)

200gr pumpkin puree (canned or homemade)
175gr dinkel flour (or wholewheat)
2 mashed ripe bananas
2 eggs
2 tablespoons agave sirup
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 pinch of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon clove
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin spice
100 ml olive oil
20 walnuts

optional topping: dark chocolate 70% 

how do I make it?

1. Whisk the mashed banana with the eggs in a large bowl very well. Then incorporate inside the olive oil, pumpkin puree and agave sirup and whisk well again.
2. In a separate bowl mix together the flour, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, pumpkin spice and baking powder. Pour the mixture in two doses into the wet mixture. Whisk well until everything is combined, but don't overmix your batter. Last add your walnuts after you have slightly chopped them.
3. Preheat your over to 180C. Place muffin paper tins in your muffin tray and start filling them with the batter, filling up to 2/3 and some more. Let the batter sit on the tins for 5 minutes.
4. Place your muffins in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Test with a toothpick.
5. Once they have cooled down completely you can melt some dark chocolate and sprinkle it on top if you want them a little bit sweeter.