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Archive for February, 2013

Foodie Penpals

A few days ago I received a very special package in the mail. It was from my latest Foodie Penpal, Marco, who lives in London. And what did he send me?

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A fancy hair drier!

No, just kidding! 😉

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This package contained so much chocolate! I guess my addiction is quite obvious. Whatever.

Here’s what I got:

Nigella Breakfast Bars – I guess they were named after Nigella Lawson, an English TV chef. Those were delicious! Marco was so nice to include the recipe, so I’ll definitely try to make those bars myself. To be honest, they are already gone.

Black tea bags from Marks & Spencer – Usually, I prefer green or herbal tea, but I’ll give those guys a try. Marco also sent two lemongrass & ginger tea bags, which I already tried and loved!

Dark chocolate – Those two bars looked strangely familiar. I didn’t know why, until I learned that they are from Lidl! I used to shop there very often during my college days, as one of my friends was working as a cashier there, but in the past few years I’ve become more of an Aldi shopper. Ah, nostalgia!

Reindeer Poop – What a funny name! I had read about this treat before, but never got to try it. Until now! Marco also included the recipe for those, and so I learned that they are actually just almonds covered in chocolate and spices. I’m looking at that big bag of peanuts in my pantry and those chocolate bars from above, and know what I need to do this weekend.

Many thanks to Marco and Maryam (his wife) for all the wonderful goodies!

Want to join the fun? If you are from the U.S. or Canada check out The Lean Green Bean for more info. There’s also a European version organized by Carol Anne from This Is Rock Salt.

Do you like tea? Which one is your favorite?

See you!

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Last Saturday I spontaneously decided to take my husband on a little date to our favorite Indian restaurant. But more on that later, let’s start at the beginning.

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Guess what I had for breakfast! Exactly. This time I topped my sandwiches with even more vegetables, as many as I could possibly fit onto my plate. Cucumber slices are awesome. And so are cherry tomatoes.

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For lunch I made a big bowl of creamy pasta salad. It was inspired by a recipe I found a while ago on Peachy Palate. I served it with a few chicory leaves. My go-to lettuce is romaine, but I’m trying to mix things up once in a while. Chicory is a little bitter, so it’s surely an acquired taste, but I really like its subtle flavour and crunchy texture.

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And finally the highlight of the weekend – dinner! There is a small Indian restaurant not too far from where we live. We’ve eaten there a few times already, and so far everything I ordered was absolutely delicious. What I love about Indian and other Asian restaurants, is that they usually offer many different vegetarian dishes, unlike most German/Bavarian restaurants in our area, where the only meat-free option is either a sad leafy salad or a plate of greasy Käsespätzle (similar to macaroni and cheese). For the record, I hate Käsespätzle! They are way too heavy and fatty and sit in my stomach like a brick for hours.

We were served some papadums (crisp lentil bread) with dips as an appetizer. Surprisingly, the red dip was mild and sweet, and the green one was insanely spicy!

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My husband, who has been to India several times, says that the dishes served in that restaurant come very close to authentic Indian food. This time he ordered a spicy veal dish that he enjoyed a lot, and I got a creamy, moderately spicy eggplant dish called baingan bharta. It was served with large strips of fresh ginger on top, and rice and chapati on the side. It was so freaking good!

During our previous visits to that restaurant I got to try their chana masala (spicy chickpeas) and palak paneer (creamy, mild spinach with Indian cheese), which were equally delicious.

Do you like Indian cuisine? What’s your favorite Indian dish?

See you!

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Adventures In {Bread} Baking

About two weeks ago, during my little staycation week, I found a bread baking mix in one of our local grocery stores. The ingredient list looked really good, just whole spelt flour, dry yeast, dry sourdough, salt, and sugar, so I spontaneously picked it up. The process of making bread from scratch intimidates me a little, and I thought that using a little help should make it easier.

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For one loaf of bread I mixed half of the contents of that bag with 1 1/3 cups of warm water. The dough looked a bit too sticky, so I added a little more spelt flour, but that was probably not a good idea. I kneaded the dough for about ten minutes. With my hands! My shoulders were on fire.

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When the dough finally looked smooth, I put it into a bowl (yes, mine is pink), covered it with a clean dish towel, and let it sit on the counter to rise for an hour. Or three. I don’t remember.

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After resting for a while, my dough had doubled in size. I briefly kneaded it once more and then put it into a floured loaf pan. I covered it all with a dish towel, again, and let it sit in a warm place for one more hour.

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Eventually, the dough had expanded even more, and was finally ready to be baked. I brushed the top of the loaf with a little water and put the pan into my pre-heated oven.

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About 45 minutes later it was done. Finally! Looking at it, I maybe baked it a bit too long, but it still turned out quite nicely.

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So, what did it taste like? The result was a rather dense and chewy kind of bread, not as fluffy as I had hoped. Maybe because I added too much flour? But taste-wise I’d say it was a success. It was quite delicious, and even my husband ate it without complaining. I still have a few slices left in the freezer and will surely enjoy them when I run out of fresh bread.

This may look like a very lengthy process, but in fact it only takes about 15 minutes of active work, the rest is just waiting.

Will I do it again? Absolutely! While I’m quite pleased with the result, I know it could be even better. The other half of the bag is still in my pantry, ready for another experiment.

Edited to add: Over the weekend, I put a few frozen slices into my toaster oven, and they turned out perfectly crunchy and delicious!

Have you ever tried baking bread? How did it turn out?

See you!

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Have you heard about the latest food scandal in Europe? Some companies have used horse meat instead of beef in their products! I can assure you that my food does not contain any of that. And even better, I didn’t even use my stove all day. Preparation is key, especially on busy days like Monday.

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My beloved breakfast sandwiches, topped with herbed mustard spread on the left, beet and horseradish spread on the right, with a side of cucumber sticks. Thinking about it, this breakfast probably qualifies as strange but good, doesn’t it?

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I bought this foldable Tupperware bowl a few weeks ago. As I already drag around a ton of stuff every day, this bowl is very handy. And it was on sale. Win-win! I love packing layered salads for lunch. First I pour the dressing into the bowl, then add something sturdy, like chickpeas or beans, then a bunch of chopped vegetables, and the leafy greens are added last, so that they stay away from the dressing and don’t get soggy. It works! And I don’t need to pack an extra container.

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My afternoon snack was a small bowl of soy yogurt with cherries. I also had a banana on the side.

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On Monday night I didn’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so I microwaved some leftover chili. This dish was inspired by Laura’s smoky chicken wing chili, but I used TVP instead of chicken.

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Later that night I was craving something sweet, so I made myself a delicious smoothie. I blended up frozen raspberries, banana, rice milk, vanilla protein powder, and cocoa powder, and topped it all with coconut and chocolate chips. Unfortunately, my camera didn’t catch the pretty dark red color, but I call this combination my red velvet smoothie. It was delicious!

Who else likes to freeze leftovers?

See you!

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Jenn decided to bring back the veggie love this month. Of course I’m on board! Here’s what I ate last Saturday.

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I had my usual open-faced sandwiches, of course. But this time I used homemade bread! Okay, it was a from a mix, but I kneaded and baked it myself. It turned out great!

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Later that morning I was craving somethings sweet, so I blended up a banana blueberry chocolate smoothie. Delicious!

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For lunch I had the biggest salad ever. Probably. It contained chopped romaine lettuce, tomatoes, green onions, quinoa, chickpeas, and my beloved creamy tahini dressing (check out the recipe!). It was very filling, indeed.

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Another spontaneous craving hit me at night, but this time it was for soup. Luckily, I found a batch of homemade vegetable broth in the freezer. I defrosted it, poured it into a pot, and added carrots, broccoli, seaweed (!), brown rice, and two frozen dumplings (mandu). Those loaded vegetables soups are an awesome way to stay warm during winter and to get a few produce servings in.

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Saturday is not complete without dessert, don’t you think? My fridge was looking a little bare, though, so I just sliced up a banana and topped it with soy yogurt, cherry jam, dark chocolate chunks, and a dash of cinnamon. Perfect!

Do you love vegetables, too?

See you!

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If you have been reading my blog for a while, you have probably noticed that I tend to eat lots of salads. Despite the fact that the temperatures have been below freezing almost constantly during the past few weeks, I’m still craving fresh produce on a daily basis.

But even the tastiest greens need an equally tasty dressing. I’ve been making variations of this basic dressing for quite a long time, so I guess I need to finally share my recipe. I love that this dressing is so smooth and creamy, even without a single drop of dairy in it.

Lunch Salad

Creamy Tahini Dressing

This recipe is just a template, so feel free to experiment with your favorite nut or seed butters, vinegars, sweeteners, and herbs. In my opinion, this dressing pairs well with any kind of salad.

Prep time: 5 minutes

Yield: Makes about 1-2 servings

*Vegetarian*Vegan*Gluten-Free*

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp tahini
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 1 tsp agave syrup
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2-3 Tbsp water
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: fresh, frozen, or dried herbs, e.g. dill, basil, parsley, etc.

Directions:

Pour the first four ingredients into a small bowl and mix thoroughly. Gradually add vinegar and water and keep mixing until the dressing looks smooth. Finally, season to taste with salt, pepper, and your favorite herbs.

The dressing keeps well in the fridge for at least 2-3 days.

Variations:

If you don’t like tahini, you could use almond butter instead. For an Italian twist, add balsamic instead of apple cider vinegar, and add some basil and/or oregano.

Enjoy!

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I’m currently taking another staycation week, which means I have plenty of time to … be lazy. And eat all my meals on my cosy couch. Ha!

Breakfast Sandwiches

For breakfast I enjoyed a very colorful plate of whole grain bread and toast with various toppings and some fresh vegetables. I’ve found a new favorite jam, it’s made of mixed berries and concentrated fruit juice, and contains no added sugar! It’s so good, I could eat it straight from the jar.

Lunch Salad

A huge salad has been my go-to lunch option lately. This beautiful bowl contained chopped romaine lettuce, quinoa, chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices, sautéed mushrooms, and half a green onion. And I drizzled my favorite creamy tahini dressing on top. (Recipe coming soon, I hope!)

Banana Oat Cookies

A little later I was craving something sweet, so I made another batch of banana oatmeal cookies (recipe from blogilates.com). I added a teaspoon of cocoa powder and a few dried cranberries. Those cookies are amazing! Vegan, gluten-free (if you use gf oats), sugar-free, and so delicious! If you haven’t tried them, do it now!

Lentil Zucchini Soup

A few days ago I found a recipe for a lentil and zucchini soup on Nada’s blog One Arab Vegan. I already had all the ingredients at home, and the soup was ready in a flash. And it was delicious! I added a little leftover quinoa to make my dinner even more filling. This recipe is a keeper, definitely!

I’ve been using my extra time this week to clean up my diet. Lately I’ve been making too many exceptions, eating not-so-healthy things like cake, ice cream, and my husband’s cheese pancakes. Don’t get me wrong, a few indulgent treats here and there are totally okay, but I’ve noticed that my stomach feels off whenever I eat dairy or too much fat in general. So I’m assuming that plant-based, moderately low-fat, unprocessed diet works best for me.

The only processed food that I absolutely cannot live without is bread. The debate about the health risks of gluten and grains in general is still going strong, and while I’m still not entirely convinced that we all need to give up all grains to be truly healthy, it has made me think. I’ve tried every healthy breakfast alternative I can think of, like oatmeal, muesli, smoothies, and fresh fruit, but they all fail to keep me full for more than two hours. So I’ve decided to stick with my usual breakfast for now, until I find a healthier but equally filling option.

Should I try baking my own bread, using spelt instead of wheat? Honestly, I’m confused.

What’s your opinion on bread? Do you think it is healthy or not?

See you!

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