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 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.