Healthy Sweet Treat

In my consultations people often ask for healthy, guilt free, weight friendly sweets. Well, sweets are not healthy when eaten regularly. But there are some that contain less fat than others. Try my favorite little treat I recommend to those who find it difficult to resist eating something sweet once in a while:

Coconut Macaroons

What To Buy

What to Buy for 20-25 pieces
4 egg whites
1 pinch salt
½ vanilla bean seeds scraped out
150 g Acacia honey
1 drop bitter almond oil
65 g low fat quark cheese
200 g coconut desiccated
80 g honey black berry jam

How To Make It
Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Pre-heat the oven at 210 degrees Celsius.
Whisk the egg whites with a pinch of salt, almond oil and the vanilla seeds until firm.
Cook the honey in a small pot for around 3 minutes. Gradually add the hot honey into the egg whites while continue whisking. Then carefully fold under the quark and coconut, do not stir too much to retain the foamy texture. Transfer the dough with two teaspoons in dollops (size of a walnut) onto the parchment paper on the baking tray. Make a small whole in each cookie and fill it with a little bit of jam. Close the dough over the jam.  Bake for 10-15 minutes at 210 degrees Celsius.

The biscuits can be kept in a box and cool and dry place for up to 3 days.

Chef Gabi’s Tip
There is no “healthy” cakes and biscuits to be precise. However above recipe is very low fat, high protein and better carb. Keep this for exceptions when you allow yourself to satisfy sweet cravings, but don’t consume them daily or in larger quantities.

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Delicious Cardamom Saffron Cookies

Baking the healthy way! It is the season for cookies and here is one new favorite of mine, definitely with Arabian flavors, and wholesome of course. They are quickly made and so delicious. If you wish to try your hand on baking, here is the recipe:

Cardamom Saffron Cookies

What to Buy for 40 small cookiesimage
1 g Cardamom seeds, roughly ground with mortar and pestle
0.1 g Saffron
150 g Butter (room temperature)
80 g Acacia honey
Organic orange zest (from 1 orange)
50 ml Orange juice
225 g Finely ground whole spelt flour
1 pinch Salt
100 g Finely ground almonds
1 Egg
120 g Dark chocolate

How to Make It
Warm up the orange juice and dissolve the saffron in it. Whisk the butter with honey, cardamom, orange zest, and a little bit salt to a creamy texture. Add the egg and continue stirring. When mixed well add flour, almonds and saffron-orange-mix and fold under. Form small cookies of the soft dough mixture with the help of a piping bag on a baking tray lined with pergament paper and chill for a minimum of one hour or over night before baking.
Bake the cookies at 180 degrees Celsius for 5 – 7 minutes. Once the cookies are chilled, dip the tips in melted  dark chocolate.

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Chef Gabi’s Tip
They taste best freshly baked. However I recommend to keep the remaining cookies in an airtight container and refrigerated for further use.
Enjoy and have a lovely winter day!

Cocoa Swiss Roll

Home made jam part 2!
jams
I used the raspberry jam (pictured above right)  to flavor my recently home made cocoa swiss roll. I have shared a similar recipe last year. But here is the “dark” brother – also very delicious.  See the recipe here but replace 120 g millet flour with 60 g cocoa powder and 40 g whole spelt flour, skip the almonds. Don’t worry about the difference in flour and cocoa though, cocoa powder is much lighter in weight than volume! Below is a step by step image guide. Enjoy!
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The Joy of Homemade Jam

I just wanted to share with you a simple recipe for a bit of healthier jam. Guilt free, almost!Honey sweetened and freshly made, it may make a great option for breakfast, cakes, cookies or desserts.
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When ever I have some fruits or berries that are a bit on the softer and riper side, I combine them in a small sauce pan, add a slice of organic lemon with the skin, a small piece of vanilla pot and as much acacia honey as required to sweeten the fruits. This depends pretty much on the fruits and on your taste.

Then I simmer them on low temperature for around 10 – 15 minutes. This is enough to deconstruct the fruits and still leave them in a vivid color a flavor. After that I add a spoonful of either arrowroot, agar agar or tapioca flour, or  and stir that in for a last bubble up on the heat. Again here it depends on the pectine content of the fruits if I need a little bit more of the thickening agent or not. Rule of thumb: 1 teaspoon for around 350 – 400 ml of jam.

Now the jam is ready to be filled in a glass or bowl and it goes in the fridge, awaiting its final use! It keeps well for around 3-5 days when refrigerated. So I never produce too much of it. Making such a small amount of deliciously smelling jam in your kitchen is no work at all and so much pleasure. You should give it a try! I love to eat this jam with some fresh yoghurt for example when I am craving something sweet….

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Baking Rediscovered

Recently I have rediscovered baking. My mom bakes almost every day fresh crispy wholesome rolls and baguettes, and her dark and aromatic sourdough bread is famous! I have done her recipe for gluten free sesame rolls and you wouldn’t believe it they are really lovely. They will be definitely on my hitlist from now on.

GLUTEN FREE SESAME ROLLS
12 small rolls (they turn out crispier, when they are smaller)

What to Buy
50 gm millet flour
100 gm buckwheat flour
20 gm quinoa flour
150 ml water
10 gm fresh yeast
20 gm butter, melted (you can also use olive oil instead)
5 g salt
20 gm wholesome white sesame, toasted

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How to Make It
Liquidise the yeast in the water. Combine it with the flours, toasted sesame seeds, salt and butter. It can be that you need to add some more water or a touch more flower. Just bear in mind the dough is rather soft as pictured above.
Preheat the oven at 250 degrees Celsius. Lay a baking tray with parchment paper and spoon the rather soft dough in portions on the paper. Give them an even more rustic look by dusting them generously with some of the flour mix from above ingredients. Allow the rolls to rise for around 15 minutes, then bake them in the oven for around 10 minutes, with an initial spritz of cold water sprayed into the oven before you close the door for baking. This is to create the best crust. For more baking tips please click here.

They are best when eaten slightly warm. I am a big fan of dipping them in quark with herbs, little garlic and diced tomatoes!

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Here some information on the flours used in this recipe:
Millet is an excellent source of silicium, good for bones, teeth, skin and hair strength. Its golden color makes all baked goods appear brighter and lighter, even though they are wholesome. However the flour is slightly sandy on the tongue. For this reason I use it mixed with others for bread rolls.
Buckwheat provides plenty of lecithin, good for your heart. It has a very special flavor, a bit nutty in an unusual way (unless you are Russian born and raised on buckwheat based dishes). The flour is slightly grey in color, a reason why I tend to mix it with golden ones for a sunnier look. The lecithin makes it a perfect flour for baking, and doughs turn out smooth and fluffy.
Quinoa is a protein powerhouse supplying all essential amino acids. Its flower is similar bright than millet flour and lifts the color of any baked food even though it is wholesome.

Bavarian Bliss – Zwetschgennudeln

Home in Bavaria. For those who don’t know it: It is the most beautiful part of Germany in the very south. I come from a small but famous place surrounded by stunning mountains – a nature scenery I truly treasure close to my heart. Below picture I took on top of mount Untersberg at 1805 m above sea level, you are looking towards Austria (Salzburgerland) here…The green shrubs are mountain pine, they are growing plentiful there.

Apart from this there is a lot of culinary greatness too. Bavaria offers quite a number of vegetarian dishes despite the fact it can’t be named really famous for vegetarian food itself. But Bavarian cuisine is rich in very special sweets (Mehlspeisen). Most of them are to die for, trust me.
We are very particular on how this food has to be prepared. My mother is an expert for a healthy take on these dishes. See what we had today: ZWETSCHGENNUDELN!
Ok, I agree this is difficult to pronounce and equally challenging to understand. Please bear with me and let me explain:
“Zwetschgen” are dark blue plums (they are very different to red or yellow plums).
“Nudeln” is  used in Bavaria for many sweet dishes containing flour as main ingredient.
Here are the delicious details:
We use a very soft and rich dough made of whole spelt, milk, butter, egg and yeast. You have seen another dish (Dampfnudeln) made of it earlier this year on this blog. There we used a steam technique to achieve the best result. For this one here we bake it to create a crust on top and a very soft and fruity inside: The dough is formed to apricot size dumplings, stuffed with a plum and a walnut half and then nestled – this is now very important – on dark blue plums again (we call them Zwetschgen), seasoned with some cinnamon, honey and more butter. All this goes into the oven and is baked for around 20 minutes until a golden crust appears on the surface of the dumplings. By that time the plums have cooked down on the bottom of the baking dish to a compote like, but much less watery texture. It has to be slightly caramelized.
This dish is great in late summer, when the dark blue plums (Zwetschgen) are ripening on the trees. It tastes best when it is still at little bit warm from the oven. We serve it even with vanilla sauce on the side for a most decadent upgrade - Bavarian Bliss!

Enjoy the summer.

Healthy Iftar Treat – My Dates Cake

I feel very lucky to have friends here in Dubai with a lush dates palm garden. I recently was invited at their place to join the family for Iftar.
And look what I walked away with - packed with dates from their garden. So nice!

There is also delicious home made dates jam and lovely arranged platters of different dates which I had to promise to bring to my mother when I fly to Bavaria soon!

 

The shiny yellow dates are my new favorites: Their flesh is similar soft as a very ripe Khaki fruit and their sweetness is incredible. Like pralines with date ganache filling.
D e l i c i o u s .

 

 

In the hot summer season I am always delighted by refreshing yet nourishing and wholesome dishes. Being blessed with a new batch of dates, I went through my recipes for another dates preparation to share with you. Below recipe is good to prepare in advance (think daytime fasting but prepare food to serve for Iftar after sunset). Especially for the smoothie I recommend to start 1 day ahead for the maceration. The composition has a great taste and the right balance of sweetness, rich soft and creamy textures, and a fresh citrus and rosemary flavor. 
I think this could make a perfect sweet treat for your Iftar. Ramadan Kareem.

Dates Cake and Rosemary Lime Smoothie
1 cake (makes approximately 8 larger or 12 smaller portions)

What to buy
For the smoothie:

500 ml cream
1 bunch fresh rosemary
3 organic limes (juice and zest)
150 g Acacia honey or agave syrup

For the cake:
300 g whole spelt flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
300 g carrots, grated
4 eggs
160 g butter
80 g acacia honey or agave syrup
1 pinch of salt
1 organic orange (zest only)
200 g dates, chopped

butter for the cake form and 3 tablespoons cocoa blossom sugar for the finishing touch

How to Make It
Bring the cream with rosemary stalks to a boil. Simmer the liquid on low heat for around 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and combine with the lime juice and zest, add honey to taste. Keep the liquid with the rosemary stalks for minimum 6 hours in the chiller to get optimum flavor. Then remove the rosemary and transfer the flavored cream either into an ice cream maker if you have one. Otherwise it works equally well to pour the cream into a container with a lid and keep it for couple of hours in the freezer. In this case you will blitz the frozen rosemary cream in a blender short before serving.
When you make the cake preheat the oven at 170 degrees Celsius. Divide the eggs. Whip the egg whites with a sprinkle of salt; add 50% of the agave syrup or honey and then the egg yolks with the orange zest. Continue to whip until thick foam is achieved. Fold under the flour, baking powder, carrots and 50 % of the chopped dates. Transfer the dough into a buttered cake form. Bake the dough for around 20 minutes. You can do the cake check: It is ready when a wooden skewer does not carry any dough when you stick it in. Remove the cake carefully from the form and chill it at room temperature. Mix the remaining dates with cocoa blossom sugar, sprinkle over the cake and caramlize the surface carefully with a blow torch. Cut the cake in portions and serve with the iced smoothie on the side.

Read more about dates here and have a also a look what else to use rosemary for. Enjoy!

Eat well and look gorgeous! Easy Everyday Beauty Food

Recently I rediscovered my love for sweet potatoes. When researching for ingredients that bring a wealth of important anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties I found the sweet potato has it all! Extremely high in Vitamin A, also an excellent source for Vitamin C, D, B6 and B5, manganese, iron, triptophan, potassium, dietary fiber this root vegetable can truly help preventing oxidative damage to our cells, to balance energy levels and moods, to support skin, heart, nerves, bones and teeth. Despite its sweet taste the natural sugars are released s l o w l y into the blood stream. Wow.
Here is my new favorite preparation of the orange to purple fleshed root. Easy everyday beauty food that makes you look great:


Baked Sweet Potato with Guacamole, Chives and Sour Cream

This is a relaxed recipe with minimum fuss in the kitchen! Here is how to make it:
Look for smaller sweet potatoes, so you can use one whole sweet potato per portion.
Brush their skin to clean them.

Wrap them in Aluminium foil and bake them at 220 degrees Celsius for around 30-45 minutes, depending on their size and thickness. Test if they are done: Press your fingers against the aluminium foil. You can feel it if they are soft inside.

Then unwrap the sweet potato and open the skin. Mash the sweet potato flesh and season it with a little bit of salt and pepper. Finally spoon on a generous portion of freshly made guacamole (avocado, lemon juice, salt.  I love adding some chilli for a hint of heat to balance the sweetness, in this case I din’t use cilantro nor tomatoes) and sour cream. Top with chives and caramelized onions.

Eat well and look gorgeous!

THE JOY of BAKING – or how to listen to the sound of bread

There is nothing to compare to the smell of freshly baked bread in the kitchen! My mother is a great source of wisdom in this field. When ever she moved into a new house, first act in the kitchen was baking bread to make the place officially HERS and produce that particular scent of a real home. Look at the picture in one of my posts from Bavaria, this is one real BREAD out of my mother’s kitchen. Simple food and truly awesome! 
This is one reason why I sometimes bake bread at home here in Dubai. Another reason is that I am fond of eating wholesome bread aka the good carbs, normal “white” bread can’t deliver (think empty carbohydrates).
A note to people being too busy sometimes to go the extra mile in their kitchen: Freshly baked bread (and also a number of wholesome options bringing the good carbs) are available now daily at the Al Samar Cake Boutique, Madinat Jumeirah. They also take orders.
Just in case you don’t find time to try my recipe….. 
But if you get on it, this bread is heaven when it is still a little bit warm from the oven. I like to dip it in pesto for example. My ultimate pesto recipe I will share with you in a couple of days, please keep checking this blog.
The following recipe is quick and easy, perfect to start your bread baking experience. The rosemary and onion is an extra flavor you can add or not. The same recipe works equally well with fresh sage or fresh zaathar, which I love since day one here in Dubai.

Rosemary Whole Spelt Baguette
1 medium size baguette or two smaller ones

What to Buy
150 ml water
1 teaspoon acacia honey or agave syrup
5 gm fresh yeast
200 gm whole spelt flour
1 small onion
2 sprigs rosemary
10 ml olive oil
1 pinch of salt 

How to Make It
To start the dough gently mix water, yeast and agave syrup or honey. Then add the flour and beat the dough well by hand with a wooden spoon until it is soft and elastic. It needs to get some air bubbles in it. Allow the dough to rest and rise for around 10-15 minutes at room temperature. In the meantime dice the onion and chop the rosemary leaves which you have removed from their woody stalks. Braise both in olive oil for one minute. Add a pinch of salt and add the warm rosemary-onion-olive oil to the dough. Eventually add some more flour and beat the dough again until it starts cleaning the mixing bowl.
Now place a sheet of baking paper on a baking tray. Preheat the oven at 230 degrees Celsius. Roll the dough to a baguette shape bread (you might need some extra flour for the work table) and place it on the baking tray, the closure of the dough (a thin visible long line) upside down. Place slight angled cuts on the skin of the bread every 3 cm. This is important to avoid the bread surface breaking up oddly on the sides and ruining its shape when baking in the oven. Allow the baguette to rise again for around 10 minutes. Note: Air-conditioned rooms are not as supportive to bread rising as normal room temperature. If your bread is not getting volume indoors, just take it outdoors for five minutes. When you place the baking tray with your baguette into the oven, spray some cold water before you close the door. This is necessary to produce steam only for the beginning of the baking process without having that uber professional baker oven with steam function at hand. This makes The Perfect Crust.
Bake the baguette for around 10-15 minutes (depending on size and thickness) until it looks golden and crispy. Now test the result and do the ultimate maturity check:
LISTEN TO ITS SOUND. (don’t get your ears to close though, while it is hot)
The baguette is ready when it sounds hollow knocking at its bottom.

Chef Gabi’s Tip
Rosemary grows very well in this climate. Even in summer. 
I have rosemary since many years in the garden and I am cutting it regularly for culinary use. Rosemary has energizing and antibacterial properties. Its strong flavor matches perfect with onions or garlic, or with orange or lime. In this bread it unfolds its Mediterranean character.


It is also part of the aromatic herb water - remember: Drinking enough water is the perfect tool to beat the summer heat.

More about Italian Cherries in Dubai

My lovely cherries I brought home from my work-stay in Rome vanish – no surprise with one recipe after another!

Time to look at some of their incredible health benefits:
Cherries are packed with antioxidants called anthocyanins. For example they are one of the few food sources that contain melatonin, an antioxidant that helps regulate heart rhythms and the body’s sleep cycles. As well cherries are rich in vitamins A (more than in blueberries and strawberries), C, E, potassium, magnesium, iron, folate and fiber. They are said to be excellent brain food too.

The following recipe I recently got from my mother. Simple cookies, they can be done with any fruits she said, but I have to say I love my cherries version. I made just a small amount (exactly below recipe), because it was my first trial. I am not a sweet tooth nor a pastry chef. They turned out very nice. And they smelled! I tasted 1, then 2, then 3…. until they were all gone.
So try them, they are proven delicious!

Sweet Cherry Financiers
makes 12 small ones

What to Buy
60 g almonds, ground
25 g whole spelt flour, sieved
60 g palm sugar
1 organic orange (you need very little of the grated skin)
2 egg whites
very little salt
80 g butter
2 cm of a vanilla pod
12 cherries
butter and flour for the forms

How to Make It
Melt the butter in a small pot and add the opened vanilla pod to release its flavor. Wash the cherries. Wash the orange and grate off a little bit of the skin. Mix orange skin, palm sugar, ground almonds and flour. Whip the egg whites with a little bit of salt. Preheat the oven on 165 degrees celsius. Brush non-stick mini muffin forms (set of 12) with butter and dust them with some flour or use disposable paper forms which do not need to be buttered. Now combine the flour-and-almond-mix with the melted butter (remove the vanilla pod first) and the egg whites. Fill the dough into the forms and stick into each one a cherry with the stem. Bake the cookies for around 15 minutes (if you use larger forms, they might take 20 minutes to bake).This is the version in paper forms, with chopped cherries.

Enjoy!