Monday, 11 September 2017

HAZELNUT CHOCOLATE COOKIE BARS


     Food, food, food. Is it ever enough? Yesterday I visited the Street food Festival in Zürich 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!


Monday, 14 August 2017

HOMEMADE COCONUT GRANOLA WITH SUPERFOODS


     With the middle of August coming tomorrow, I can't believe that summer will soon be over. Tomorrow we are having some of our friends over for barbequeing the Greek way, which translates into a lot of juicy meet and fresh vegetables being grilled. I'm going to provide dessert and my help to my boyfriend, as well as cleaning the house, preparing everything for the food and perhaps getting some flowers. 
     I love having friends over for food. It feels like taking care of your family, so personal and intimate. Everyone is laughing, having a great time and although there is a lot of work behind it, it doesn't matter, because these are memories we are going to have for the rest of our lives...



     Yesterday we went for another one of our big walks into the forrest we have here in Rümlang. To our surprise, as we took another road that we've never taken before, we met some young deers. Babies to be correct. Of course, they were scared of us and run quickly the other way, we could see them in the depth of the trees taking a peak at us. Or so we liked to think! It was rejuvenating to be back in the nature and look at its creatures. So simple and yet so beautiful, without the human interference.



     In the morning I also managed to quickly prepare a homemade granola. I've been wanting to make some for a long, long time, but I have been postponing it. Only because I think if I make it then I will be tempted to it right away, and it's not the least caloric thing to eat. But to be frank I had A LOT of oat flakes in my pantry and I needed to do something with them, since porridge is not a usual dish during the summer.
     The recipe for this one is very simple. You have wet and dry ingredients and you mix them together. Also, the great thing about granola is that you can add whatever exists in your fridge or pantry without worrying about it going wrong. Now, these are the recipes I like. If you are busy and trying to do everything at once, then this will help you a lot in the kitchen spectrum. Plus granola is so versatile and it can be paired with so many other ingredients like yoghurt, milk, as a topping on your porridge, an add-on for smoothies and on its own.
     This granola is a little different that your usual kind, since it contains three amazing and good for you superfood powders: Maca, Mesquite and Reishi. Each on each own with numerous benefits for the health. I will start with Maca, my favourite one, a root used by the Incans, which helps with balancing your female hormones, acne, energy levels anaemia and libido. During the Incan Empire it is said that soldiers used it to regain their energy. Reishi is a medicinal mushroom used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and has some effects on protecting you from infections, cancerous cells and chronic fatigue. Mesquite is natural sweetener that doesn't spike your blood glucose levels, which has a lot of fibre and omega 3s. 
    So there you go! A healthy version of granola you must not resist!

Homemade coconut granola with superfoods

ingredients

4 cups oats
1 cup coconut slices
1 cup nuts (I used almonds, walnuts, flaxseed, popped Amarath and pumpkin seeds)
1 pinch salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon of each: Maca powder, Mesquite meal and Reishi powder
1/4 cup coconut oil (liquid form)
1/4 cup honey or agave syrup


how do I make it?

1. Preheat your oven to 150C. Mix together all the ingredients in a large bowl very well. Everything needs to be combined well before toasting the granola.
2. In a large pan, place a baking paper and then pour on top the mixture in your bowl. With a spoon, make sure the mixture goes fills the surface of the pan.
3. Put the pan in the oven and toast for about 30 to 40 minutes. I toasted mine for 45 minutes. This depends on how crunchy you like it. Every 10 minutes after you begin to toast your granola, open the door of the oven and carefully mix again the mixture with a spoon to make sure everything in there gets a colour.
4. When your granola is ready, take it out of the oven and let it cool completely before serving.






Sunday, 6 August 2017

HEALTHY BANANA AND OATMEAL BREAD (AND SOME TALK ABOUT EMOTIONAL EATING)


     It's been a while since I've written a recipe. I won't tell you clichés about how busy life is, because that's what it's like to most of people. The truth is I lacked the inspiration in my life I really needed. I am a sensitive and emotional human being and most of the times if I feel uninspired it shows up in every aspect of my life. So, my blogging life was affected as well. Since the last time I blogged, I've been to an amazing trip in Greece to Elafonisos island with my two best girlfriends. We had such a relaxing time, doing almost nothing but sunbathing, swimming and eating during the night. What else did we need? Just some quiet for a while...
     But it's not only my everyday life that gets affected by emotions,it's food as well. With food I share a love and hate relationship for a lot of years. I almost never like to talk about it and really, who cares? I enjoy food very much, but sometimes when stress sneaks into my life, I overuse food for the wrong reasons. Then I stress about food, which leads to more stress, which leads to more food and...you get the picture. 
     I've read a lot of articles talking about "listening to your body" and I always thought they were talking nonsense or made it seem so simple, when it's not. Willpower. Such a strong word and also so far to reach sometimes. And what about having an order in your life? 


   It often seems that when chaos exists in your life, it's the reflected chaos inside you that you look at. 



So, I had to do something about it.



     In my journey towards realising what my body is saying to me, I tried for the last two months to keep a journal. Not a calorie and food intake journal, but an emotional journal.  Every time I am hungry I make a note about how I am feeling at that time of the day. Then I can see which days or periods during the day I am really hungry and when I am just bored, angry, stressed or sad about something going on in my life. It's really a silly task to let myself realise sometimes that it's not hunger that's making me crazy and not being able to concentrate on something else. It's my own emotional chaos that is recking everything. If anything sounds familiar to you, then maybe you should give it a try and see if something clicks in your head. You can also read this article I found that talks suggests doing a Broccoli test before you eat anything. It also talks a lot about emotional eating. 




     Another major change in my life that helped me a lot with my relationship with food was exercise. But not once or twice a month exercise. Daily one, with a few breaks between the week. My plan? Plan ahead... Every Sunday I make a schedule about possible gym days, running or Pilates during the week and give it my best to try to do them all. So far it has really helped that in my new internship position we have a pretty good gym where I spend all my lunchtime days there. I am pretty sure my classmates and colleagues think I am a freak for doing so, but it really makes me feel amazing afterwards. I am doing a lot of HIIT sessions combined with running and Pilates, which I can never give up. 
     In this spirit of a healthier body and mind, I made a recipe this morning for a healthy banana bread with oatmeal, oat milk and walnuts. It's a real treat and since it's not very sweet, it's a good choice for breakfast. What I like doing with it is toasting it slightly and then slather on top some crunchy peanut butter. I am already hungry talking about it!

Healthy Banana and Oatmeal bread

ingredients (for one loaf)

2 large ripe bananas smashed and one not so ripe
1/4 cup oatmilk (or any other type of milk)
1/3 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup crushed walnuts

how do I make it?

1. Preheat oven to 180 C. In a large bowl whisk together the oil and honey. Then pour inside the eggs and whisk again very well until everything is combined. Add the milk and smashed bananas. 
2. Lastly add the flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt and mix everything very well. Mix in the walnuts.
3. In a prepared loaf pan pour the bread dough. Take your other banana and slice in lengthwise. Top the unbaked bread with the two halves of banana. 
4. Bake the bread for 40 minutes or until slightly golden brown. 
5. Let it cool for about 10 minutes and then enjoy it while it's still warm.



Sunday, 23 July 2017

COCONUT WATER, OAT MILK AND MAPLE SYRUP CHIA PUDDING WITH MELON AND CACAO NIBS


     Having a sleep schedule has always been a challenge. With social life and work going on, there never seems to be a constant pattern. The last two months I started doing my internship, I've been waking up quite early (at 6:30), which seems to have affected my other days of sleeping. I can't seem to sleep more than 6 to 7 hours. Despite being a big creature of habit, this is a habit I don't quite fancy.
     Natural remedies such as Magnesium supplements, calming no caffeine teas and good old warm cup of milk seem to help the situation a bit, but not the level of my satisfaction. However, I don't give up or give into quick fixes. Challenge is accepted!
     On other news, I am as of this Thursday on Greek grounds. I have come for a quick vacation back home, in a desperate need of some vitamin D. I am also planning to do a small roadtrip to the south of Greece and to a small island called, Elafonisos. The beach there is so magical as if you were in the most virgin, untouched place on Earth. Crystal blue waters, white sand and only the ocean ahead. If I manage to go, I will for sure take a lot of photos and show you one of the most magical places in Greece.



     Now that summer is here, I thought of a chia pudding could save me from having to think what to eat every day for breakfast when I am working for my internship and keep me full, but not too full. Coconut water is also full of electrolytes that can save you from all the sweat you've been shedding. Cantaloupe melon is the star in this one, as it contains a lot of Vitamin A in the form of carotenoids, which are crucial for summer glowy skin as well as the protection from harmful sun rays. Prep this pudding on Sunday and enjoy it all week long.

Coconut water, Oat milk and maple syrup chia pudding with cantaloupe melon and cacao nibs

ingredients (for 4 persons)

1 cup coconut water
1 cup oat milk
1/2 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup maple syrup (or honey)
2 cups cantaloupe melon
4 teaspoons cacao nibs
4 teaspoons chopped almonds
2 tablespoons mesquite meal
more melon to serve

how do I make it?

1. In a large mixing bowl add the coconut water, oat milk, chia seeds and maple syrup. Mix roughly all the ingredients together and let the mixture sit for 20 minutes. After time has passed, the mixture will have become quite thick. Transfer into individual pots or in one large jar or container you wish. Let them in the fridge for up to 2 hours or overnight.
2. When it's time to serve your chia pudding, put in a food processor 2 cups of cantaloupe melon and the mesquite meal. It has a somewhat cacao and sweet flavour. If you don't have any, you can skip it and just pulse the melon. Pulse on high speed until you have a pulp. 
3. Top the pots or bowls you serve the chia pudding with the melon pulp in the previous step. Continue with a teaspoon of cacao nibs in each one and chopped almonds. If you wish, add more melon chunks  and maple syrup on top. 




Tuesday, 27 June 2017

CANTALOUPE MELON ICE CREAM


    Hot, hot, hot! And I'm talking about the temperature lately. I mean, of course, if you live in Europe you know what I'm talking about it. No news there. But also, I'm referring to the remake of the very loved 90s drama, Baywatch. Have you seen it? I happened to watch it on Sunday and somewhat enjoyed it. It was nothing like the original series, but that was mostly because David Hasselhoff was not part of it... Other than that, I enjoyed the very simple script, with no big surprises there and of course the girls had amazing bodies as expected. 
     However, it reminded me how much I miss Greece during the summer, the best season to be there. I miss my walks along the beach in my hometown, Glyfada, I miss the drinks with my friends in a bar next to the sea, the chilly breeze that hugs you during the nights and of course the smell of sunscreen mixed with sea salt water. I booked my tickets a few weeks ago for July and I really can't wait. My little trip also involves a Greek wedding, which means a lot of food, dancing and more food. Oh, and drinking!



     Until then, I need to have something that reminds me of a careless summer, eating juicy summer fruit and trying to chase every bee and bug that exists in the house. One of my favourite summer fruit, apart from peaches and nectarines, is melon. Not a big fan of honeydew melon, though, I think cantaloupe is my choice here. I love the colour inside the melon and the sweetness of it. It's something really really special to eat. Sometimes I even pair it with some feta cheese to make it a bit fancier and take some of the sweetness out of it.


     Now, during summer I don't like to do a lot of things in the kitchen. I prefer easy and manageable tasks. And since I don't have an ice cream machine (yet), I had to come up with an easy recipe for a melon ice cream for this summer. You only need a few ingredients and some good freezer. Prepare yourself for some fruity mess with this one!

Cantaloupe melon ice cream

ingredients

one medium cantaloupe melon (gives about 500gr pulp)
1 1/2 cup full fat heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 rectangular pan

to serve 
chopped pistachios
honey

How do I make it?

1. First, prepare your melon by cutting it in half and taking out the seeds. Using a spoon try to carve all of the pulp and pour it into a processor bowl. Once you're done, set your food processor to high speed and pulse for a minute or until you get a nice pulp without any big chuncks. 
2. In a bowl pour in the heavy cream, sugar and vanilla extract. Using a hand mixer or with the standing mixer, whip your cream very well until you get stiff peaks. 
3. Once the whipping cream is ready, slowly and carefully transfer the melon pulp into the  whipping cream and using a spatula mix in slow motions. Do this until all the pulp is incorporated into the mixture.
4. Fill in the pan with the ice cream mixture and let it sit for 5 minutes. Then transfer into the freezer. 
5. After an hour take it out and mix it slightly with a spoon. Then place it gain into the freezer and let it for 3 more hours or best overnight.
6. When you want to serve, take your ice cream out at least 30 minutes before. Fruity ice creams tend to get very icy and they are harder to serve. Sprinkle some chopped pistachios and drizzle some honey for extra delight!