Friday, 20 December 2013

Nutty little men, stars and snowmen

These hazelnut Christmas cookies were gone in a blink! They are so simple to make and are delicious.

300g all-purpose flour
200g ground hazelnuts
200g butter
150g sugar
1pckg vanilla sugar 
or 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1 egg or egg substitute 
1 pinch salt

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. I used cold butter and the dough was still hard enough to be rolled and cut out. If your dough is too warm, wrap it up and put it in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough on a flour dusted surface. Use any kind of cookie cutters.

For the icing I simply squeezed 
1 lemon and added
about 250g icing sugar
and covered the cooled down cookies! Done and eaten in a blink!

Monday, 9 December 2013

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

2013 advent calendar

The 2013 advent calendar is up!! I have hidden 24 surprises! The countdown to christmas has begun! 

Monday, 2 December 2013

Spelt leftover lunch

Two zucchinis, a few carrots, some celery sticks and a whole lot of nothing in my fridge. That happens sometimes. On days like today fir example. On this cold winter morning with chilly bora wind blowing from the east, I decided against grocery shopping and invented a new recipe: leftover spelt; meaning spelt with whatever leftovers there are. 

Here is what I used:
4 medium organic carrots
2 large organic zucchinis
1 celery stick
2 cloves of garlic (I was out of onion, but would have added it otherwise)
250 grams/2 cups of spelt 
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon
a few basil leaves
salt, pepper 
other herbs if you like such as
rosemary or thyme

First off, preheat oven to the highest setting possible. Wash the spelt and soak in in fresh water for at least 20 minutes. In the meantime, wash and chop all veggies into small pieces, you can cut the garlic cloves very small and mix them up with the rest or leave them whole and take them out once the veggies are cooked. Mix all the veggies together, add a splash of olive oil, salt, pepper, lemon juice, herbs of your choice (do not add the basil yet).
In a cooking sheet roast all veggies. Cook Spelt in fresh salted water for about 20 minutes, the same time the veggies need. When the spelt is cooked, strain it, let the water evaporate, then mix veggies and grains in a large bowl. Mix in chopped basil leaves. Let everything stand for a while to let flavours develop. Serve warm or cold. It's whole, healthy and: vegan! My hunny loved it with some not so vegan grated Parmesan cheese. Enjoy! 

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Peppino pumpkin

This is Peppino Pumpkin, carved by my own hands! Part of Peppino is now soup! 
I made the same recipe a few weeks ago and served it - amongst other delicious dishes - for Canadian Thanksgiving dinner. It was a complete hit! 

Here is what I used for the soup:
2 cloves of garlic
1 red onion
some ginger roots (I used 2 large ones)
1 glass of prosecco (or white wine)
1 large pumpkin (buy a Hokkaido one if you can get it, I did not find one here)
200 ml/1 cup coconut milk
1 red chili pepper 
extra vergin olive oil

For the croutons:
bread of your choice, can be a day old
4-5 sage leaves
olive oil

Here is what I did for the soup I served our friends:
Other than cutting and carving the pumpkin, I put it in the oven on the highest temperature for about 15 minutes. Afterwards it's so easy to cut up! I could not find a Hokkaido pumpkin (you can eat the skin as well) so I had to cut the skin off and take out the insides of the vegetable. I then cut the flesh in pieces and put it aside. 

I finely chopped garlic, a red onion, two ginger roots and a chili pepper (minus the seeds) and fried everything in extra vergin olive oil. I added some prosecco and when it had mostly evaporated I added the pumpkin pieces, let them fry for just 1 minute before I added some heated vegetable broth. 

I let the pumpkin cook for about 40 minutes. I then puréed everything and finally added some coconut milk that I stirred in slowly. I added just a hint of salt and pepper.

Right before serving the soup I cut up some bread and fried it in olive oil and chopped sage leaves. 

Since my guests were all Italians, they added some grated grana padano cheese, but it is not necessary. You can also enjoy it completely vegan. Perfect soup for the season! 

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Feeling happy

Just wanna share my happiness with all of you!! May today make you smile!! 

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Shoelicious Italy

Some men think all women go crazy about shoes. Period. Well, I used to be one of the very few women in the western world who did not share this behaviour with other female humans. All right, I did treasure shoes just as much as any other item in the closet; but not more. In the past, I'ld buy high boots and ankle boots, mary janes, sandals and, of course, stilettos, just as much as I would carry home skirts, jeans, dresses, shirts or any other piece that would enrich my wardrobe. What exactly changed my well-containted love for footwear into a hot, passionate can be summed up in one word: Italy. It is not a myth that Italians have the best footwear fashion. No matter where I go shopping here, some never-before-seen shoe style will catch my eye and soon later my credit card once again gets out of my wallet. This lovely pair of Janet & Janet wedge heel sneakers are the newest addition to my shoe closet. Just lovely! And I am sure that they will not remain the newest ones there for a long time.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Better without butter

Once in a while I like to prepare something sweet for my colleagues. Often, I choose muffins. The reasons being obvious: they are easy to eat at work, everybody loves them and I get to try a new recipe. The one I chose a few days ago seemed delicious: lots of chocolate, hazelnuts and... butter, the only ingredient I had not written on my shopping list and was missing from my fridge. At 11 p.m. my only choice was trying to find another recipe online that called for all the food I had either bought or that was sitting in my pantry. The more time passed the more impatient I got and thought: whatever. I mixed some of the ingredients together the way I thought was right, changed some grams here and there to adjust the texture and making up for the butter. I was afraid to check my muffins after they were baking in the oven for 20 minutes. The result was astonishing: they looked and tasted delicious!! Try for yourself: This is what I did:

180 g flour 
200g chocolate
200g crushed or grated hazelnuts
150g sugar
4 eggs
1 package baking powder
I preheated the oven to 180 degrees Cesius, melted the chocolate in Bain-Marie (hot water bath: fill a large pot with water, place a smaller pot with the chocolate into the one filled with water, heat slowly, stir chocolate until melted).
Crush hazelnuts or use crushed hazelnuts.
In a bowl mix eggs and sugar together until fluffy. In a separate bowl combine flour and baking powder. Add chocolate and hazelnuts, then add flour, mix well.
Prepare muffin pan with liners, put dough inside (fill up about 1/3) and cook for 20 minutes. They were so good, I'll make them again soon. I did not miss the butter and sure didn't miss the extra calories! 

Monday, 19 August 2013

Super simple summer RPT salad

Oftentimes I don't even feel like cooking in July and August, thus my sparse writing here. We like to eat cold things I the summer. I love spelt salads with roasted vegetables (will post recipe asap). Today, I worked with what I found in my freezer, fridge and pantry and came up with the creation of my very own RPT salad. Frozen peas, dried and fresh tomatoes, rice and olive oil. I cooked the rice in salt water for only 15 minutes, it needs to be "al dente" - a little bit crunchy inside. I heated the peas and then cooled them in cold water, same with the rice, I cut the dried and fresh, ripe cherry tomatoes in very small pieces, mixed everything together with a bit of extra vergin olive oil, salt, pepper, basil and a tiny bit of lemon juice. Done! This is a delicious salad to serve by itself or with grilled fish or meats. If you have some mozzarella, you can throw it in the bowl or make a second dish: caprese (mozzarella, tomatoes, olive oil, basil, salt and pepper). Easy, light and delicious!

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Some golf

Is it so difficult to hit a ball with a club to get it into a hole? Oh yes, it so is! Just today someone asked me at the club house of the Lignano Golf Club: "So,  and you? Nothing golf, eh?" Well, I wanted to answer, I would not call 70 some lessons in two and a half years and hundreds of euros later "nothing", really. I would rather call it "someone is trying really, really hard", but yeah, I still don't have a handicap and who knows if I will get one before I turn 76! But, you're right: nothing golf... Eh?! 
When I got home after that conversation I decided to open the only book my golf  instructor suggested I would buy: "Ben Hogan's Five Lessons". And here I am, hoping to improve by reading. Thinking about it: reading is doing something, so "nothing golf" would really be an understatement . 

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Dining in August

Hot and sticky summer days are coming to an end, the sun sets sooner every day,  a fresh sea breeze unwinds your hair and you know: August is in full swing! This is the perfect time for an outside dinner with friends! Set the table in the colours of the summer, prepare a light salad with a lemon, raspberry dressing, throw salmon on the grill, open a bottle of Friulian Ribolla Gialla, put your i-tunes playlist on "Best of Paolo Conte" and there you have the perfect dinner setting for an evening with friends. Don't forget the dive in the pool after midnight! Truly magical those August nights in Italy!

Monday, 24 June 2013

Venice in the air

I took this picture last winter while in Venice. The beautiful city is just around the corner  - or I should rather say "just around the bay" - from my new home in Italy. I love to go here for a day trip and just get inspired by the beautiful buildings, the significant artwork, the fascinating architecture and nonetheless all those guests who travel here from all over the world - most of them spend no more than just a few hours of their lifetime in the streets and on the canals of "La Serenissima". I am very fortunate to be able to go here whenever I please and I sure don't mind paying 12 euros for my morning cappuccino on St. Mark's square. It's no regular coffee but one served with romance, love and after all... some Venice air.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

edge of the sea

Recharge your batteries by enjoying the simple things in life such as: the edge of the sea

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Quick vegan lunch

Spinach and kale were the leafy greens that were popular at my house in Northern Germany when I grew up. We ate a lot of those, especially kale in the winter time. I still love both of those veggies. Unfortunately, Italians are not very familiar with kale; could be because it's a warmer climate and kale needs to get frost at least once before you can harvest it. Instead of kale, I noticed a leafy green vegetable that I had not been very familiar with: swiss chard. Italians eat lots of it as a side dish or as part of a casserole. Even I use it on a regular basis. It's easy to prepare and you can store it for up to three days in the fridge. Here is what I do: 

1) Wash the swiss chard really well
3) Cut it into small, small pieces, not thicker than 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch
4) Throw in salted, boiling water
5) Let cook for about 12-15 minutes
6) Strain and let all the water evaporate
7) In a heated pan add some vegetable oil and some cut up garlic
9) Fry until the garlic gets golden coloured
10) Add your swiss chard to the pan and fry for 3-5 minutes
11) Add water or stock if the greens are about to burn
12) Serve as a side dish or by itself with a slice of bread

Yesterday I found some carrots, swiss chard and green onions in our fridge and came up with this delicious wok dish. If you don't have a wok, a skillet works just fine.

Ingredients (serves at least two):
- 1 swiss chard
- 3-4 medium sized carrots
- 1-2 green onions
- 1/2 liter or 2 cups vegetable stock
- chinese style (chow mein) wheat noodles (70 grams per person)
- garlic (of you wish)
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil

Heat vegetable stock. Wash and cut veggies into 1 cm cubes, cut the green onions much smaller than that. In a wok or skillet heat coconut oil. Once it's hot add carrots first as they need a bit longer. Once they get a bit crispy add green onions (and garlic of you wish). Make sure the onions don't burn. After 30 seconds add swiss chard and some of your stock. Let cook for about 8-10 minutes. Once the swiss chard is cooked half way through, add remaining stock and noodles. Turn off the heat. Cover with a lid and let stand for about 10 minutes (see indications for noodles). After ten minutes, the liquid will be absorbed (of not, drain the remaining stock) and what remains is a healthy, all vegan noodle-swiss-chard-carrot-dish you will fall in love with!

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Cozy, lacy, silky

For as long as I can think back, my first action when coming home has always been: getting rid of my clothes and changing into something comfortable. You will never find me at my house in tight jeans or fancy blouses. When I am at home, I want to be cozy.

A few years ago, I discovered that cozy does not necessary has to equal sweat pants and University tees. Lacey long shirts, snuggly leggings and silky cardigans make up my home-wear wardrobe. The outfits I love are super comfortable without compromising femininity. Dressed like this, I feel always ready for when my sweetheart comes home from work, when the neighbour comes over to borough a can of tomatoes and when my friends from overseas call me on skype. The best thing about my home outfits: I love them so much that I even think of them on my way home from work.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Juicy fur and pasta eyes

One ear missing! This is what happens when the photographer is slow and the cookie-lovers are quick.
Easter brunches, lunches and dinners have been invented to impress friends and family with lovely casseroles, cakes, quiches and, of course, cookies. This year get the best compliments for your vegan Easter shortbread cookies.
As mentioned previously, I try to make more vegan choices in my diet these days. When you think of baking, you might wonder how eggs, milk, butter and cream cheese can be substituted by products that do not derive from animals. Well, I have learned so far: they simply can. 
Here is a recipe for my vegan shortbread Easter bunnies and hearts. For about 20 cookies you need:

  • Easter cookie cutters such as bunny shapes, but also hearts and flowers are perfect for the occasion
  • 100 grams (1/2 cup) soy margarine or soy spread
  • 180 grams (2/3) cups of all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • (add 1/4 tbsp salt if vegan margarine is un-salted)
For icing and decoration you need:
  • 120 ml (1/4 cup) red berry juice  
  • 225 grams (1 cup) confectioner's sugar 
  • for the eyes I used "grattini, a small pasta used for soups, but if you have little sugar pearls, even better
Preheat oven to 350 F/175 C. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
In a bowl beat soy margarine or spread with an electric mixer; make sure it's creamy. Slowly add flour and sugar (and maybe salt, see above). Using your hands make a large roll from the dough. Cut off a slice and roll the dough on a floured work surface. Use cutters to make bunnies, flowers and hearts and carefully place them on the cookie sheet. Mix remaining dough with another slice of your roll. Repeat as long as you have dough. Bake for about 12-15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

For the icing pour the red juice in a small bowl. Slowly add confectioner's sugar and mix with a fork until dense. Brush icing on cookies and add pasta eyes. You're done and ready to hear lots of compliments!

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Oat up your morning coffee

During my challenge to integrate more vegan options into my diet and to cut out as much dairy as possible, I was having trouble finding a decent solution for my morning coffee which used to consist of a shot of espresso and about one cup of warm milk. Living in Italy, where it is common to only drink your cappuccino in the morning and at no other time of the day, I have got used to having milk in my coffee only in the morning. Italians drink their afternoon coffee or the one after dinner - always an espresso - either straight up "liscio" or "macchiato" with literally means "spotted" with a dot of steamed milk. Thus, having lived in Italy for about three years, I no longer feel the need to put milk into my coffee after 10 a.m. but before that, I absolutely do.
I have tried rice milk and I found it too sweet, same with almond milk. That's why I have been using soy milk, the one with extra calcium, but it has a tangy taste to it.
Then yesterday, when I was staring at the non-dairy milk isle of the bio supermarket a shop assistant must have seen desperation in my eyes and asked me if she could help me. I explained my morning coffee problem and she simply asked "Have you tried oat milk, yet?". I never had up until then and immediately bought two confections. 
This morning I had a pleasant surprise: I really like my non-dairy coffee with oat milk. I can definitely get used to that. Sometimes it helps to be a bit desperate, I guess.

Friday, 8 March 2013

One egg missing: Vegan muffins

This was easier than I had thought: My goal was to convert a healthy muffin recipe (click here for the original recipe) into a vegan version. I am by no means a vegan, but I am trying to include more and more vegan options in my diet. During my experimentation process and I was surprised to find out that it is pretty easy to convert regular recipes into vegan alternatives. When I looked at the list of ingredients for the healthy raspberry muffins I knew right away that I could easily substitute non-fat milk with soy milk. I only saw one other animal based product: an egg. I did some online research on fantastic vegan recipe and lifestyle websites. Two fundamental tips for substituting eggs in baking are mentioned almost everywhere:

1) add applesauce
2) add ground flaxseed

Since both of those ingredients are already part of the original recipe, I simply doubled the amount of apple sauce and added a bit more ground flaxseed and voilà: the muffins turned out great! Maybe it was my imagination, but I am convinced they are even better than the original ones. Could my impression come from the fact that I know these muffins are animal product free? Since I might be biased I asked my boyfriend V. about his opinion. Without him knowing about the missing egg and the soy milk, he said that the muffins where the best I have ever made!
Okay, I admit that he says this almost every day for anything I cook or bake... but whether they taste better or just the same, these ones are have definitely harmed no animal!
Here is the vegan recipe:

1 1/2 cups (165 g) of oat bran (substitute with wheat bran)
1 cup (250 ml) soy milk
1 cup (200 g) unsweetened apple sauce
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup (60 g) ground flaxseed
2/3 cups (125 g) of brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (140 g) whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (240 g) frozen raspberries 

  • Preheat oven to 375 F/190 C
  • Grease muffin pan or use paper liners.
  • In a bowl mix bran and soy milk and let stand for 10 minutes 
  • In a second bowl mix together apple sauce, brown sugar and vanilla, then blend with the bran mix. 
  • In a third bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt, then add ground flaxseed. Stir the flour and flaxseed mix into the bran mix. Do not over beat. Mix the lemon zest with your berries first, then blend the fruit in with the dough. Scoop into muffin cups.
The muffins should be ready in 20-25 minutes. You can freeze them individually and pop them in the microwave oven in the morning to have a tasty vegan breakfast. 

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Broccoli with a puff

I love fast lunches and dinners and the puff pastry pie is one of my favourites. I try to make it not too often because the puff pastry has quite some calories. I buy it fresh but it's already made, so I cannot be 100 per cent sure of what's in there. This is a vegetarian (not vegan) recipe that I vary with all kinds of vegetables, according to what I find in my fridge. A variant is a mix of broccoli and cauliflower and made it once with savoy cabbage and even with carrots and zucchini. It is greta because you can use up your leftover cheeses. Here is what I did for this recipe:

You need:
1 sheet of fresh puff pastry (I bought the round pie shaped version, but you can also get the square one)
750 g (8 cups) broccoli (you can use less but I like to use lots of vegetables and little cheese)
50 g (1/4 cup) cream cheese (again, I use just a little, the more you use the better is tastes, but the more calories it has.)
1 small egg
75 g leftover cheese (I used Emmental cheese)
100 g (1 cup) feta cheese
coarse sea salt, regular salt, pepper and nutmeg for seasoning

Step one:  Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius/350 degrees fahrenheit. Place the puff pastry on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. With a fork, lightly poke some little holes into the dough. Bake roughly for 10 minutes just so that the puff pastry has a golden colour. Remember, it will go in the oven a second time, so at this point it needs to be lightly golden, not brown.

Step two: Heat a pot of water, once the water is boiling, add some coarse sea salt, not too much though, the feta cheese you will add later is quite salty on its own. Cook the washed and cut up broccoli for not more than one and a half to two minutes. Strain and let all the water evaporate really well. No worries, the broccoli can get cool, you will heat it again later. 

Step three: In a bowl blend cream cheese, egg and left over cheese with a fork until it's smooth. Add little salt, some pepper and grate some nutmeg. 

Step four: Place broccoli on the puff pastry. Crumble feta over the pie. Carefully pour your egg and cheese mix over the broccoli. Do not worry if it does not cover all of the broccoli, this is a light version that still has a lot of taste - and calories, so do not drain the broccoli in egg and cheese! Bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the cheese is lightly coloured.

Tip: You can eat the puff pastry pie right away or you can take it to work, heat it the next day in the microwave oven or eat it cold. 

For non-veggies: Fry some bacon bits in the pan and sprinkle them on the pie before you place it in the oven. In this case, use less salt.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Easter mood

It only needs a few items to get me in the Easter mood. For more every day pictures follow me on instagram.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Flakey bake

Thanks to my 21 day yoga body transformation training with Sadie Nardini I prepare healthy breakfasts   - and I feel great! Yes, I do love Italian "brioche" and during the first few weeks of my yoga body transformation it was a bit tough to not eat a chocolate croissant with my morning cappuccino, but just the way Sadie forecasted, my body got used to the transformation and the healthy intake. 

I got proof this morning. At the coffee shop I asked for "skim milk" for my cappuccino but they only had "partially skimmed milk". The beverage was way too rich for my newly programmed taste buds; they did not tolerate the extra fat and I really thought my body did not need any additional calories hiding in the milk. The result: I did not even drink half of my morning cappuccino.
The "brioche" behind glass sure looked yummy and smelled fantastic, but when I thought how much butter and white sugar must have been used to make it, the temptation vanished and I was suddenly looking forward to eating my healthy muffin that waited for me in my kitchen.
I loved the recipe I posted a few weeks ago (blog post "start with a healthy treat") and I have experienced a bit with it. My new favourite healthy morning treat involves coconut flakes and strawberries.

Coconut & strawberry muffins

1 1/2 cups (165 g) of oat bran (substitute with wheat bran)
1 1/8 cup (280 ml) non-fat milk
1 cup (100 g) unsweetened apple sauce
1 egg
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup (40 g) ground flaxseed
1/4 cup (18.75 g) coconut flakes (and some extra for sprinkling)2/3 cups (125 g) of brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (140 g) whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups (240 g) fresh strawberries (washed and cut up)

  • Preheat oven to 375 F/190 C
  • Grease muffin pan or use paper liners.
  • In a bowl mix bran and milk and let stand for 10 minutes 
  • In a second bowl mix together egg, apple sauce, brown sugar and vanilla, then blend with the bran mix. 
  • In a third bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt, then add ground flaxseed and coconut flakes. Stir the flour and flaxseed mix into the bran mix. Do not over beat. Mix the lemon zest with your strawberries first, then blend the fruit in with the dough. Scoop into muffin cups. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Sprinkle some flakes over the muffin before serving it.
If you have any other great ideas to modify this recipe, let me know and comment below!

Monday, 18 February 2013

Feel feminine

Shopping for sales in Italy I found this black pleated skirt (fornarina) and there are lots of ways to wear it. My favourite is matching it with a light pink sleeveless shirt and a thin belt. On colder days I just add a cardigan - white, light gray or another shade of pale pink works well. There is nothing like a pleated skirt to feel feminine.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Organic shopping

Some women go shopping for shoes, purses and dresses. I go shopping for organic food, especially when I am in Germany. Organic products are readily available everywhere in Germany, whereas in Italy, I have to go search for my every day cooking ingredients. However, when I get back to Italy, shoes are definitely on my shopping list!

Thursday, 7 February 2013

A different kind of pesto

Why not make a creative pesto with kale or savoy cabbage.
No doubt: Italian cuisine is maybe one of the best in the world, but I find many Italian restaurants and famous TV chefs are too focussed on the traditional recipes, and this can get kind of boring after a while. Luckily, my friend Jenny who lives in Canberra provides me with the original Australian version of the Donna Hay Magazine. I find great inspirations in her creative style cooking. My problem, however, is to find some of the ingredients the Australian chef calls for. As astonishing as this might seem to anyone living in Sydney, Toronto, L.A. or New York City it is hard to come by dried seaweed, shiitake mushrooms and peanut oil in rural north eastern Italy. I even went to the local market in Venice a few times where you can buy the loveliest and freshest fish as well as local fruits and vegetables, but I still could not cross out "lemongrass" and "thai basil" from my shopping list.
Whenever I find a recipe in the in the magazine that calls for common Italian ingredients I give it a shot.  I made Donna Hay's kale pesto a few months ago and it was delicious. Last weekend, I was thinking about it again. I had all the ingredients at home, except for the kale. Too lazy to drive around looking for it, I used savoy cabbage instead and liked the pesto even more than the kale version.
Here is the recipe of my savoy cabbage and almond pesto (adapted from Donna Hay's kale and almond pesto). You will need:

2 cups of blanched savoy cabbage leaves (remove big stems)
1 cup fresh parsley
3 cloves garlic
1/3 cup of toasted almonds
2 red chillies
1/3 cup grated Grana Padano (Donna Hay suggests Manchego cheese)
1/2 cup olive oil and some extra for drizzling the almonds.

Cook the savoy cabbage for less than a minute, that way it retains its great colour.
Heat a pot of salted water (sea salt) and once it boils add your washed savoy cabbage leaves. I cut off the hard stems, but leave in the little ones. Cook for about 1 to 2 minutes, strain and let all the remaining water evaporate (this is very important). I usually do not only cook the 2 cups of cabbage that the recipe calls for but the whole thing. Whatever I do not use, I serve as a side vegetable. For a side dish just drizzle some olive oil and lemon over it. Can be enjoyed cold or hot.

Preheat oven to 375 F/190 C. Place almonds, chillies and garlic on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, drizzle with olive oil and roast for 8 to 10 minutes or until almonds are golden brown. Watch out, because from one second to the next, your almonds can burn. Let cool for a minute, then deseed the chillies. Place chillies, almonds and garlic in a food processor then add the kale, parsley and cheese, process until roughly chopped then add your olive oil and stir gently.

Donna Hay suggests to serve roast chicken and pesto together with some veggies or potatoes. When I told my boyfriend V. I would prepare some chicken for him he could eat with the pesto he just frowned. "Chicken and pesto? That's not Italian. I will have some pasta with the pesto, thanks." Italians, eh?! What can I say?

Vegan tip: Just leave out the Grana Padano cheese or, if you prefer, substitute with soy cheese or sheese and you have a fantastic Vegan pesto.

Storage tip: Your pesto will be good in the fridge for a week or even ten days. Put it in a glass and pour some olive oil on top, this will keep the pesto from drying.

When processing your ingredients, make sure not to overdo it.

Thursday, 31 January 2013

No need to knead

Better than any bread from your local bakery: home-made artisan bread.
Thanks to my Norwegian friend Kristin I made my first no-knead bread about three weeks ago. She suggested I would give it a try, because Norwegians just like Germans love a hard crust on their fresh bread and she thought I would like it. Would I ever?!?! This is the most delicious bread I have made so far and it really is almost no work at all. By now, I must have already made about six loaves and I want to share with you how it's done. It's so easy.

I basically watched the youtube video by the inventor of this great method, Jim Lahey, from Sullivan Street Bakery in New York. I'ld suggest you watch the video by clicking here.
I tried the recipe exactly as it was suggested and loved the first loaf, but then made little alterations and now I even like it better. You need:

3 cups or 384 grams all-purpose or bread flour
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 5/8 or 406 ml lukewarm water

After step one, the dough will look like a big lump, just cover it.
After 18 hours the dough is smooth, ready to be folded. 
Your house smells like a bakery when the bread is done.

  • Step 1) In a large bowl add flour, yeast and salt and mix the dry ingredients. Add 1 and 5/8 cups or 406 ml lukewarm water and just mix with your hand, no need to knead! Cover with a towel and put in a warm place for at least 12 hours, but 18 hours is even better, I find.
  • Step 2) After 18 hours the dough should be smooth. The yeast did all the work, not your hands. Carefully place the dough on a dusted parchment paper (I use oat meal for dusting) and fold the dough over from the corners to the middle (watch above mentioned video for details). 
  • Step 3) What Jim leaves out in the video is that you should let the dough rise again for at least 30 minutes, better one and a half hours. 
  • Step 4) Place an oven-safe pot that has a heat-proof lid in the oven and preheat to max. (225 degrees celsius is mine, Jim suggests 500 degrees fahrenheit). Detach the dough from the baking sheet and place it into the hot pot. I just flip it over and it comes off easily. I then dust the dough with some more oat bran. Quickly put on the lid and place it in the oven for 30 minutes with the lid on, then another 20 minutes without the lid. Done!

The crust on this bread is amazing. To me and my boyfriend V. this bread tastes better than any artisan bread at the local bakery. It seems like a lot of waiting in between steps. That's why I came up with a schedule that works for me. Here is what I do: I make the dough at around 6 p.m. before I get supper ready, it takes literally 2 minutes, no dirty dishes except for the the measuring cups. The day after at around 10 a.m. I fold the dough. At 11.30 I preheat the oven and at noon I put the bread in the oven. At 12.50 p.m. the bread is ready for lunch or it will be cooled down later-on for supper. Do the calculating and see what schedule works for you. 

Of course I did not only make white bread, but tried some variations. My favourite is this whole wheat bread with flaxseed.

The whole-wheat bread does usually not last more than 12 hours in my house.
1 cup  or 128 grams all-purpose flour
2 cups or 140 grams whole wheat flour
1/4 cup flaxseed
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt 
some oat or wheat bran or cornmeal (I used oat bran)

With your hand just gently mix the ingredients, no kneading at all.
You get a smooth dough without kneading after 18 hours of no work.

The process is exactly the same. Add the flaxseed to your dry ingredients before adding the water. The rest is just the same. This is my personal favourite!