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.






Monday, 11 September 2017

HAZELNUT CHOCOLATE COOKIE BARS


     Food, food, food. Is it ever enough? Yesterday I visited the Street food Festival in Z├╝rich with my boyfriend and a friend. It was one of those events where you know you are there only to eat and have fun. And we did both those things. It was (and still is until the end of this week) a very big event with many, many food trucks and kiosks everywhere your eyes could look. 
     First, we started with a pulled pork sandwich with chimchurri. I didn't know this one,  but it turns out it comes from Argentina and Uruguay. It is a kind of garlicy salsa used for barbecued meat and sometimes to marinate poultry. It's an oil-based marinate that will make you savour every bite of your meat. A little bit spicy for my taste, although I enjoyed to the last bit. 
     Afterwards, we enjoyed some really nice Mexican tacos and later came the sugar coma. Why? You may ask... Well, we started off with an ice cream treat, only to finish with a Czech traditional dessert, that resembles a roll. It's called Trdelnik and it comes in several forms. It's basically a soft dough, twirled around a thick sort of skewer, which is then oiled and covered in sugar. While it's being baked, the sugar crystallises, giving the dough a crunchy exterior and the middle is let empty. You can have a simple sugar Trdelnik, or fill it with some Nutella (as we did). So, so, so gooooood! 


    Finally, we had some traditional churros and called it a day. Not to mention the stomach aches and the feeling of being stuffed up to our noses. But it was all worth it. I never regret eating good food, only the bad one.
      With all this food talk, it's surprising I want to talk even more about it. But it involves a recent recipe I made with chocolate. It's a little bit more work-heavy in the kitchen, as enjoyable as the previous one and more likely to make your mouth water. I'm talking about the Hazelnut Chocolate Cookie Bars.



     I would say this is more of a treat than a healthy snack. However, it's still not as fattening as a regular candy bar. It's all in the quantity though. I originally intended to use Almond flour or meal to make this, but there were some grounded hazelnuts laying around (again). As I say this too often, you know I'm the kind of gal that tries to incorporate whatever there is in her kitchen at the given time. This one was no different.

Hazelnut Chocolate Cookie Bars

ingredients (for 6 to 8 bars)

1 2/3 cups finely grounded hazelnuts
5 tablespoons oats
1/4 cup agave or maple syrup
5 tablespoons nut butter (I used peanut butter)
2 tablespoons coconut oil melted
salt

for the chocolate ganache

1 cup dark chocolate (vegan or normal)
2 tablespoons nut butter (I used peanut butter)
1 tablespoon coconut oil

How do I make it?

1. Combine in the food processor the grounded hazelnuts with the oats and salt and pulse on high speed.
2. In a separate bowl, combine the melted coconut oil,nut butter and agave syrup and mix very well with a spoon. 
3. Transfer the grounded hazelnut mix into the wet ingredients. Using a wooden spatula or spoon, start mixing everything until you get a soft dough. 
4. Line a small rectangular pan with baking paper and pour in the dough. Start pressing the dough onto the pan and try to straighten the surface with your hands. Put in the fridge to chill for some minutes.
5. Next, in a pan put all the ingredients for the ganache. On low heat, start melting the chocolate while stirring it every now and then in order not to burn the chocolate. Once it's melted, let it cool a bit.
6. Bring out your pan and pour on top the chocolate ganache. Leave it settle for 10 minutes. Then put it again in the fridge and let it chill completely for at least 2 hours.
7. When you want to cut your bars, bring out the pan and let it get into room temperature for 10 minutes. Then cut with a sharp knife.




Friday, 8 September 2017

DARK CHOCOLATE BARK WITH CRANBERRIES, NUTS AND COCONUT FLAKES


     Oh the sweet taste of Autumn! The long summer days are beginning to end, rainy days are more often and the need for a protective layer, other than your own skin, is important.  Summer fruit are not so easy to find anymore, whereas Fall fruit and veggies like grapes, pumpkin, apples are everywhere. Yes, my dear readers, Summer is over, and new exciting things are going to happen from now on.
     I always feel as if September is the New Year's after the summer period. There is a change in our schedule, diet and habits almost immediately after August is gone. Since I am a sucker for new beginnings, I embrace this one dearly. It's time to practice some self-care, learn a new skill and why not, master a few culinary tricks. Plus I love cosiness and everything that has to do with food, so this season is one of my best after Summer!



     A new thing I am trying out in very small, baby steps this season, is taking care of plants. I mean, who doesn't like those green and colourful plants that bring a little life to a home and make it more vibrant? Past experiences with plants have not been very successful, however, and I am struggling to figure out why. Asking around, I get the feeling that everyone has a different perspective and way to take care of plants and maybe I need to figure out my way as well. It seems that it's a little try and fail period for me, but I will not give up for sure. On that note, if anyone has any tips, or a website/video they can suggest that explains how plants need to be cared for, I would dearly appreciate it!


     Last Sunday inspiration stroke again! Like an unexpected period, it came without notice, but was welcomed. I had some chocolate laying around in my pantry and some dried cranberries, so the immediate thought was to try a recipe for a homemade chocolate bark! I am one of those people that loves crunchy food and when it comes to dark chocolate, I like it when there is some fruit or nut inside. It's one of those recipes I wanted to try for some time, and now it was the perfect time. 
     For this version of chocolate bark, I used 70% dark chocolate (next time I will go with more) and added some coconut oil inside, to make it stabilise quicker and to add some healthy fats inside. I added some coconut flakes because lately I've been loving the combination of these two. Normally I would try something like an orange peel, but no, coconut has my heart the past few months.


Dark Chocolate Bark with dried Cranberries, Nuts and Coconut Flakes

ingredients

300gr dark chocolate (at least 70%)
2/3 cup of mixed chopped nuts (almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts)
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
2 tablespoons chia seeds
3 tablespoons dried cranberries
3 tablespoons of coconut flakes
1 tablespoon coconut oil

how do I make it?

1. In a medium pan on low heat, melt the chocolate with the coconut oil. You have to stir the chocolate very often to avoid burning. Once the chocolate has melted and has a kind of glossy texture, remove the pan from heat and set aside.
2. Mix all of nuts together, cranberries and chia seeds together and leave coconut flakes for the end.
3. In a big baking dish or pan, set a large piece of baking paper. Take your pan and carefully pour the melted chocolate on top of the baking paper. Using a spatula, try to spread the chocolate on the pan, but make sure that it has some thickness (around 1,5 cm).
4. When you have prepared the chocolate, start spreading the nuts on top. Next add cranberries and chia seeds and in the end add the coconut flakes. You want to have every corner of the chocolate covered with a topping, make sure you don't leave anything uncovered. 
5. Leave your chocolate to chill in a cool surface or place. I left it for a couple of hours to chill in room temperature and then put it in the fridge, because the weather was quite hot outside and the chocolate wouldn't become solid. 
6. When it's ready, simply cut it into pieces you desire. 

P.S. This chocolate bark can be a very nice gift as well. Simply cover it with some baking sheet and use a twine to tie a knot. 




Saturday, 26 August 2017

BLISS BALLS WITH PUFFED AMARANTH, WHOLE WHEAT TAHINI AND COCONUT


     When life gets hard, we should get tougher! I was very excited the past few days for an upcoming pet arriving in our house. We were to have a wonderful husky puppy in our apartment a few days ago. But it seemed like it wasn't meant to be for now, there were a lot of problems from the beginning, and although we struggled hard, in the end we couldn't have the dog. We tried to stay positive about it and not give up! Because giving up means accepting that you are powerless and can only see the glass half empty. We may have been unlucky this time, but next time it will be better. I am sure of it!
     In other news, student and work life is getting pretty good. I have adjusted to it, only because I try to keep a fixed schedule of everything and keep myself fed well. For the later part, I have been making healthy lunch meals which I prep on Sunday and keeping myself energised by making some homemade protein bars. But what about snacks? Since I am a snack person, especially the days I work out, I need to have something easy and relatively healthy to munch on. Hence, the creation of bliss balls...



     Aren't they just the cutest? With one ball you can have a good amount of healthy fats (tahini and coconut oil) and complete source of protein (amaranth). I had to do some googling for this one, as I haven't used it before and didn't know what was its nutritional profile. 
     After some search, I learned that amaranth has some important benefits we need to be aware of:
  • it's a complete source of protein, having all 9 essential amino acids
  • it's a gluten free grain
  • it can help with inflammation and high cholesterol levels (LDL) or triglycerides. 
  • it's a very good source of vitamins and minerals
     

     I had some puffed amaranth hanging around my pantry and I wanted to give it a go in a recipe for a long, long time. Yesterday morning inspiration stroke! I created a very easy and simple recipe for a bite-sized snack that you can take with you anywhere. In this recipe I've added whole-wheat tahini, which I find pairs extremely well with coconut, but if you don't have it you can use simple tahini or almond butter.

Bliss balls with puffed Amaranth, whole wheat tahini and coconut

ingredients (makes 14 to 16 small balls)

1 cup Medjool dates 
1/2 cup almonds
1 1/2 cup puffed Amaranth
2 tablespoons whole wheat tahini
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1 tablespoon coconut oil

how do I make it?

1. If the dates are a little dry or hard, let them soak in cold water for 1 hour beforehand. Then, in a food processor put all of your ingredients apart from Amaranth. Let everything mix very well together. 
2. Step by step start adding the puffed Amaranth into the food processor. Once you have pour it all in and a soft sticky mixture is created, it's time to start shaping those bliss balls.
3. Take a tablespoon of the mixture in your hands and start forming a ball shape. Be a little thorough with this step, as you want the balls to stay sticky and not fall apart once you let them out of your hands. 
4. Place the balls on a plate or small pan and put them in the fridge to chill.
5. Enjoy every bite!