Sunday, 20 October 2019

VEGETARIAN LASAGNA WITH CAULIFLOWER & SPINACH BECHAMEL


     So we are back after a quite long pause from the blogosphere. Truth be told, it's very difficult to keep a hobby alive when other things are either getting in your way or are more important for your inner piece and quiet. These past few months have been a bit stressful for me in my day to day job, as I learn new things and I gain new responsibilities. Outside of my job, we adopted a beautiful White Shepherd puppy. And I tell you, it ain't easy to care for a puppy, especially when that puppy is a big giant with an attitude of a tiny dog. 
     These days we pass time teaching her the basic principles of training and she enjoys the treats that she gets during training. Thankfully Switzerland is quite a dog-friendly country and we didn't have any issues bringing the dog from Greece here, but also getting accepted to have a dog in our apartment. In contrast with my home country, Switzerland allows you to have a dog (almost everywhere) but with rules. The community realises that having a dog comes with a lot of responsibilities and if you are not able to take ownership of those, then you shouldn't have a dog in the first place.



  Lately we've been experimenting with eating less meat and incorporating more vegetable based meals. In Greek cuisine, vegetables are the basis of many recipes, but unfortunately for us, some of the ingredients we find in Greece are not easily found in Switzerland. Nevertheless, one has to take advantage of what they can find and the solution to eating plant-based is to only cook seasonal. That means with vegetables that are in season when you cook them. For us that meant spinach and cauliflower. 
     Due to the colder temperatures we've had lately, I was craving something comforting like a hot plate of pasta. Lasagna came instantly to mind as we haven't had those in a while and they are always so delicious to eat. But this was going to be a difficult task to do. How do you make lasagna delicious without any meat sauce? Well my ladies and gents. You make...a cauliflower bechamel. Yes, yes. You read that right. A creamy and spicy cauliflower bechamel that has nothing less than the real stuff. Ok, enough talking and more baking. Let's see how to make these lasagna.


Vegetarian lasagna with Cauliflower and Spinach Bechamel

ingredients
1 head cauliflower
3 medium potatoes
1 cup vegetable broth (you can use chicken if you're not vegetarian)
2 cups spinach
50gr margarine (vegetable butter)
salt,pepper
16 sheets lasagna
grated parmesan cheese 

How do I make it?
1. First step on this adventure is to cut the cauliflower head in small pieces and peel the potatoes. Then fill a large pot with water and add the cauliflower with the potatoes. Let them boil until they are soft.
2. Once your vegetables have softened it's time to bring out the blender. Place the cauliflower, potatoes, vegetable broth and margarine in the blender and pulse on high speed until you get a nice creamy consistence. Salt and pepper in your preference and pulse again. If the bechamel needs more salt, don't be afraid and add some. 
3. Once your bechamel has the desired saltiness, in a bowl keep the half of the bechamel. Add to the remaining bechamel in the blender the spinach and pulse on high speed. Again pulse until you get a nice light green color and the spinach has been incorporated in the mixture. 
4. Take a medium pan and with a spoon cover the bottom with some of the white bechamel. Place three to four sheets of lasagna and then layer with the spinach bechamel. Make sure that the bechamel covers all the surface of the lasagna. Repeat the layer of the lasagna and then add some cauliflower bechamel. Repeat this action until you get a final layer of bechamel at the top. Add some grated parmesan to the top.
5. Bake the lasagna at 180C for 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Once they are cooked, let the lasagna cool for a bit before cutting a piece, because otherwise the bechamel will fall out of the lasagna when it's still hot. Enjoy with a cup of white wine!





Monday, 25 March 2019

TRIPLE LAYER CASHEW CREAM BARS


     I'm currently in the third week of Lent, in which I abstain from meat and fish, as well as dairy and other animal products (such as eggs). For the latter, I only completely abstain during Wednesdays and Fridays. The reason I started the Orthodox Lent is not so much religious, in the sense that I am not a strict follower of the Lent each year. But this year, my body felt that it needed some sort of detoxification from animal products, due to some digestive issues, so I thought I should give it a go. 
     It turns out, it's not so difficult or so much different from the way I normally eat. During the last few months, I've learned to eat more legumes, such as lentils and chickpeas, which makes me crave meat less. Of course, I will occasionally eat meat, especially when my boyfriend is cooking for us, but on other days I am fine without it. I feel that if we train our body by eating healthier 80% and unhealthy about 20% of the time, then we don't really miss the junk food when we don't eat it so often. 
     So this period that I am going through has given me a lot of options and opportunities to try out different recipes and foods. I have always been looking at all these plant-based recipes and recently I bought myself my first ever raw vegan cake (I shared this on Instagram). And let me tell you this. It was AMAZING! Oh my God how good it was. Such a perfect first experience with raw vegan cakes!




     This cake was my inspiration for creating these Triple Layer Cashew Creme Bars. If you are a nut lover, cashews are on your list. Personally, I love all nuts (with favourites one walnuts and almonds), but cashews don't make such a big impression on me. I find their flavour and crunchiness to be very mild and I am known to love crunchy food. So much, that it turns my boyfriend mad. But in most recipes I've seen so far, cashews are used to create a creamy base or a mixture close to a cheesecake one. Whatever the reason, I used cashews in my recipe as well. I just had to adjust a few things to my liking.
     The base is a wonderful date and mixture of nuts, with a bit of saltiness to balance out the sweetness of the two other layers. The dark chocolate on top is enhanced with some extra unsweetened cacao for those who like it bitter. Of course, apart from the middle layer you can adjust the base nut layer and the top chocolate one as you like. You could also skip the chocolate layer on top and put something else, like fruit, shredded coconut or anything else that would "stick" on top.


Triple Layer Cashew Cream bars

ingredients

base
1 cup mixed nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans)
12 medjool dates (soaked in water)
pinch of salt

cashew cream
1 1/2 cup cashews, soaked in water for an hour or overnight
1/2 cup coconut cream (place a coconut milk can in fridge overnight)
4 tbps honey
juice of half lemon

chocolate top
100gr chocolate
2 tablespoons coconut oil (melted)
2 tablespoons cacao

How do I make it?

1. First make the base. In a food processor, mix all of the ingredients for the base, until a soft dough is created. Then, take a medium to small pan (about 20cmx18cm) in rectangular shape and place a baking paper. Pour in the nut dough and start pressing it with clean hands on the bottom of the pan until it covers the whole surface. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
2. After 30 minutes, place all the ingredients in a high speed blender. To take the coconut cream from the can, open from the top and carefully try to take the coconut flesh that has gone on the surface. Make sure to place a can and not a carton in the fridge overnight, as it won't work with a carton. Mix well for about 3 to 5 minutes, depending on your blender. Take out the pan and pour in the creamy filling. Place again in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
3. For the final step, melt together the chocolate and the coconut oil. When they are well melted together, add the cocoa, making sure you use a small shifter so that you avoid creating lumps in your chocolate. Take the pan out of the fridge and pour the chocolate melt on top. Place again in the fridge for another 2 hours or best overnight. 
4. When you want to cut the bars, use the sides of the baking paper and lift the whole content . Place on a cutting board and use a sharp knife to cut in desired sizes.



Sunday, 10 March 2019

TART WITH WINE POACHED PEARS AND MARZIPAN FILLING (SCANDINAVIAN RECIPE)


     It has been quite a while since I posted a recipe to this blog. Almost over 4 months now. Sometimes it happens that life is so quick, exciting or even at time demanding, that one needs to set priorities. In my case, it was both demanding due to a new job I got last year, but also I didn't have the inspiration or the thrill that I used to get before. I felt like I needed more time to myself, to care for my mind and body, spend time with friends, travel and generally experience life. Not to say that I don't love making recipes and sharing them with you guys.
      Which is why I have a brand new recipe that I made yesterday and it has a special ingredient I haven't used before. Marzipan is made of almonds and is simply an almond paste that is used to make sweets. I first encountered it when I was living in Stockholm and I first tasted some of their marzipan based sweets. In all honesty, those sweets can be found also at IKEA, but I didn't really taste the ones there. Also, after some googling, it seems that the Italians, and mostly the southern Italians, also use it in their sweets.  For me it was an interesting ingredient to work with and the result was better than expected!




     The recipe is adapted by the book The Scandi Kitchen, which is a great cooking book to have if you enjoy the Scandinavian food and the simplicity sometimes that exists in their cuisine. The actual recipe calls for Glögg, which is similar to Glühwein or Mulled wine. In another words, a spiced and slightly sweetened wine. I didn't have any mulled wine in my pantry, so I had to introduce some of the spices myself and I share this recipe as well with you. Otherwise, you can skip this part and use a spiced wine.
     Also, another slight modification I did was to use a round cake pan instead of a tart pan that was required for this recipe. I know, that's not the best thing to do, when you're trying to recreate a recipe. But I often miss one or two ingredients and I have to substitute them. I don't suggest it to you, though, as this recipe is much better for a tart pan, especially during baking.


Tart with wine poached pears and Marzipan filling (adapted from Scandi Kitchen)

ingredients

for the pears
3 medium sized pears
500ml red wine
2 star anise
3 to 4 cloves
1 stick of cinnamon

for the dough
1 egg
150gr cold butter
220gr all purpose flour
40gr sugar
1 teaspoon water

for the marzipan filling
150gr marzipan (in pieces)
100gr butter in room temperature
100gr sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
60gr flour
1 teaspoon vanilla essence or powder

to serve
almond flakes (toasted)
sirup from sweetened cherries

How do I make it?

1. First step is to make the dough. Cut the cold butter into small pieces and put it in a food processor along with flour. Pulse for half a minute to incorporate well. Then, transfer to a bowl of a standing mixer, add the sugar and egg and mix well until a sort of dough is created. Add the teaspoon of water, mix again and stop. Use your hands to shape the dough into a ball, making sure that you slightly kneed it to incorporate every last piece of flour or other ingredient left on the bowl. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it sit in the fridge.
2. Now, make the pears. In a large pot pour the wine and the spices and cook on low heat. Peel and core the pears (cutting them in half) and place them in the pot. Close the lid of the pot and once it starts boiling, let it boil for a few seconds and then close the heat. When the wine has stopped boiling open then lid and let the pears cool down. I took the pot outside in the balkon and that sped up things quite a bit.
3. Take the dough out of the fridge. Next thing is to make the marzipan feeling. Place the smooth butter in a bowl of a mixer again and beat until smooth for about two minutes on medium to high speed. Then, pour in the sugar and beat for another one minute. Add in the marzipan pieces in three doses and beat well. Last add the flour, eggs, cocoa powder and vanilla essence and give it a good final beat until you have a smooth creamy filling. Set aside.
4. Preheat the oven to 180 C. Take the dough, flour a clear surface and roll out the dough into a round shape. Don't worry it doesn't need to be be perfect. Place the rolled out dough into a tart pan or a cake pan like I did. Make sure to place any excess dough in the sides of the pan. With a fork, pinch lightly the bottom and sides of the dough. Place a baking sheet on top of the dough and fill it with almonds, cashews and any other nuts. This step is optional. You can also place baking beans or any other "heavy" legume, nut, to keep the baking sheet in place and prevent the dough to rise too much. Bake the dough for 10 to 15 minutes, until lightly golden.
5. Take the dough out and let it cool for 10 minutes. Then, pour inside the marzipan filling evenly to the surface of the dough. Cut the pears into thin slices and place them in group of four to five slices on top of the filling creating a round pattern (as pictured here). Bake the tart for 20 to 25 minutes, or if you use a cake pan for 30 minutes, until the filling is set in the sides and middle.
6. Let it cool before serving for about 10 to 15 minutes. Decorate with some toasted almond flakes and drizzle some cherry sirup on top. Enjoy with some milk or a cup of coffee.




Saturday, 24 November 2018

GINGER SPICED CAKE WITH CAROB HONEY, APPLES AND QUINCES


     Getting ready every morning to go to work during winter time is a tough job. It's so cold outside, that all you want to do is snuggle up in your comfy blanket and let the world go on its own. There is only one thought that gets me up and ready to go. My hot brewed coffee with hazelnut and a cup of warm porridge. I am never one to choose instant meals, but last week I came across an instant porridge package and thought I could give it a go in the office. You just add some boiled water and that's it! I was in heaven! While everyone else was eating crackers and boring breakfast, I was having a warm and delicious blueberry yoghurt porridge. 
     Another optional breakfast for those freezing mornings, when getting up seems the worst thing in the world, is a slice of any possible cake accompanied with a glass of warm milk. After all this, don't you just love winter? The past few days we've been having some very bad fog in Zurich, making everything a little spookier, but also a little more charming. 




     In Nurnberg, Germany, there is a very known tradition of ginger cakes and ginger cookies. If you also look up the "history" of gingerbread you can see that it originates from Germany and the first documented gingerbread biscuits were back in the 1700s. It goes without saying that I am a big fan of spices and gingerbread baked goods are something I love to eat during winter. You can find a few of the recipes I've created with ginger, like the Swedish Pepparkakor or the Gingerbread cupcakes  with creamy frosting.




   Last Sunday, I was looking for fallen leaves to make the photoshoot a little more special. So I went outside to look for something to include in my photos and I found some beautiful flowers with red seeds and green leaves. They looked so mesmerising and fit for the purpose I wanted them. The weather was also amazing to take photos, cloudy the whole day, so that meant I took advantage of it and completed two photoshoots.
   The recipe I will share with you in this post is a ginger spiced cake that is made with a special kind of honey and olive oil. Carob honey is something we use in Greece as well as traditional honey. What I like about it is that it's not so sweet as the usual honeys. It is often advised to people with diabetes in order to control glucose levels. It's also thought to help with stomach issues and has overall a rich profile of minerals and vitamins. If you're looking for something less sweet than your usual stuff, then I would highly suggest it. It's also rich in colour, which helped with the recipe of ginger looking cake, instead of molasses. 
     If you don't know what Carob is, maybe checking online would be a good place to start. It's thought to be an alternative to cacao beans. It's rich in flavour, but has a lower content in fat and sugar than regular cacao. Also, it's ofter used as an alternative to coffee, since it resembles the taste a bit of brewed coffee without the caffeine effect. I have only used the Carob honey, which I find to be a good replacement of regular honey.


Ginger Spiced Cake with Carob honey, Apples and Quinces

ingredients

3 cups flour
1/2 cup olive oil
2 eggs
3/4 cup carob honey
1 cup boiled water
2 teaspoons gingerbread spice (lebkuchen)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
3 drops of rum flavour
1 to 2 apples
2 quinces

to serve: whipped mascarpone cream

How do I make it?
1. In a large bowl, mix together the honey and olive oil for about a minute until smooth. Start adding the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Then, add the drops of rum and the vanilla, mixing once more.
2. In a separate bowl, shift the flour and add the gingerbread spice and baking powder. Transfer in three additions the ingredients into the first bowl of liquid mixture. 
3. Boil the water and start adding it into the bowl, in small additions again. Use a cover in your mixing bowl if you're using a standing mixer, to prevent the hot water spilling all over and on you. 
4. Preheat the oven to 180C and prepare your cake pan with butter and flour. Take the apples and quinces. Clean them and cut them in small slices. Pour the cake batter into the cake pan and tap the pan a little on a flat surface to make the batter even on all sides. Take the slices of apple and insert them with the skin on top. Then take the quinces and put them the same way in the batter. Make sure to put one time apple and one time quince to create a nice patter. Start outer-wards close to the sides of the pan and then move in the middle.
5. Bake your cake for 35 to 40 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. You can serve with some icing sugar on top or some whipped cream on top.








Wednesday, 31 October 2018

STICKY APPLE & PUMPKIN BUNDT CAKE WITH WHITE CHOCOLATE RUM ICING


     Waking up today I only had one memory in mind. My first trip to France. The very first moment everything about my younger self changed. I was only 6 years old, when my parents took me and my brother to Paris to enjoy the city and have fun in the Disneyland park. Little did I know what this trip and the following ones that came would do to my priorities in life. I know everyone talks about quitting their corporate jobs and start travelling the world. I'm not going to say I encourage this, since I don't believe it's even close to reality. But I will say that one may keep their hard earned money to travel the word and let your mind make all the nice memories you will remember during the old times.
    Of course, I can't stop thinking about where to go next. There are so many places I haven't been to, especially outside of Europe and I want to visit them all (if I can). This Christmas, we will enjoy our time with some friends in Copenhagen, the happiest city in the world...or so they say. I can't wait to go there, back to the Scandinavian lands. Back in 2011 I lived in Stockholm for 3 months and I still remember how beautiful the city was and how magnificent the scenery appeared. I believe the same about Copenhagen and I can't wait for the time to come to explore it. Food wise I have some things on my mind I would like to eat and share with you on the blog. So be prepared!



     It's about time I shared with you a recipe I made last week. During fall and winter I tend to make a lot of different cake recipes and if there is one that I love is a classic bundt cake. This recipe, apart from delicious, it was also very exciting because I used two cake forms that I got from a special antique shop here in Zurich. Brockenhaus is a secret paradise if you love antique plates or furniture. On my last trip there I found some English porcelain, the two cake forms from porcelain and ceramic, two ceramic coffee cups and much more. These items probably came from someone who passed away or didn't need them anymore and I'm sure they have some great story to tell. Whatever it is, now it's part of my collection of items that I love!
     Apples and pumpkins are both in season right now, so making the best of these two ingredients should be your goal until the end of autumn. And who doesn't enjoy a slice of cake with their afternoon coffee or with their Sunday morning brunch? With simple ingredients and keeping up my mojo of using olive oil in my cake batters, this one experiment turned out to be so damn good!



     You can serve it without the icing of course, with just a dash of icing sugar or completely plain. That's how delicious it is and moist. But I do urge you to try this simple white chocolate and rum frosting on top. It will take your taste buds completely by surprise.

Apple & Pumpkin Bundt Cake with a White Chocolate & Rum Icing

ingredients

for the cake
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup oats
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 medium sized apples chopped
1/2 cup raisins
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

for the icing
100gr white chocolate
1/2 cup full fat milk
2 to 3 drops of rum essence
zest of one lemon

How do I make it?
1. Prepare your cake pan, preferably one for bundt cakes, by laying some butter at the bottom. In a bowl, whisk your eggs and olive oil well and then add the pumpkin puree. Whisk again until you have a nice mixture. Pour inside the vanilla, mix one more time and leave aside. 
2. Get a bigger bowl or the bowl of your standing mixer and pour inside the flour, sugar, oats, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Stir well all the ingredients and start adding in small doses the liquid mixture. Mix well until everything is smooth. 3. Stop the mixer, if you're using an electric mixer to mix and add inside the apples and raisins. Start stirring with a wooden spatula. Turn your oven to 180C and while you wait, pour the cake batter into the prepared cake form. Bake your cake for 45 to 50 minutes. You will need to check by using a toothpick. If the toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean, then your cake is ready.
4. Take your cake out of the oven and let it cool off completely. When you want to make the icing, simply put the chocolate and milk in a bowl and use a microwave to heat up the chocolate. You will get a sort of watery mixture, but don't be scared, we don't want a very thick icing. Add inside the drops of rum and lemon zest and mix well. While the icing is still hot, pour it on top of the cake.