Saturday, April 28, 2012

Simple Spinach Dish

A few days ago I read about health benefits of spinach which I will share with you soon and then headed for the nearest supermarket. Fortunately I was able to find some fresh spinach at the first one. I then looked on the other shelves to find a few of its close friends. There they were:tomatoes, onions, and garlic. With the addition of stir-fried minced beef with garlic, they were ready to go to the oven. The picture below shows the happy combination before they were oven baked. 
This time, I won't be able to give you the exact amount of the ingredients because I didn't pay attention to how much I used of which ingredient. Still, you can follow these easy steps to make this super healthy dish with the lowest calories possible. Use any oven-proof pan or casserole and lightly grease it with olive oil first. Then pile the vegetables in any order you wish. I started with the spinach leaves and then tomatoes followed by the onions and then minced beef and then repeated layering until all the ingredients have been used up. 


After they get baked in the pre-heated oven for about half an hour, the time depends on how much baked you want them to be, take the pan from the oven and grate some cheese and sprinkle with little more of olive oil. I also broke two eggs to add some more protein. No need to mention the final touch of any spices according to your taste. Bake for another 10-15 minutes until the eggs are done.


Before it got dark outside, I managed to shoot these photos. Even the span of colours was exciting enough for me to dig in.  Fresh yogurt really goes well with this easy spinach dish, by the way.  


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Whole Grains


First of all, whole grains are not a single food but a category that includes whole wheat bread, brown or wild rice, oatmeal, barley, popcorn, and cereal, and bread and crackers made from whole grains with no white flour. 

What makes a grain ''whole''? Simply the fact that the nutrient-rich bran, germ, and endosperm have not been milled out of the grain kernel. When any cereal grain, such as rice or wheat, is processed into white flour, the natural fiber, vitamins, and beneficial phytonutrients are sacrificed, turning an otherwise potent source of nutrients into a collection of empty calories. Worse, your bloodstream absorbs white flour so fast that your blood sugar levels first soar and then dive as the fat-producing insulin hormone rushes in as response.

Making whole grains a part of your life is one of the best things you can do to boost metabolism, smooth insulin release, and control blood sugar, not to mention lower your risk of diabetes, cancer, stroke, and heart disease. Whole grains deliver lots of the best kinds of fiber. Fiber is our heart-healthy and weight-loss ally for its ability to slow cholesterol absorption and lower blood fat levels. 

Please remember that like olive oil whole grains are higher in calories, so you cannot eat unlimited amounts. However, also remember that anything made with refined grains can be made with whole grains - breads, cereals, pasta, crackers, you name it. And of course wheat, oats, and rice are only the best-known grains. There are others that might be new to you, such as bulgur, quinoa, buckwheat, soba noodles, and the different varieties of whole grain rice. 

The Shopping Tip:
Always look for "whole grain" or "whole wheat" as the first ingredient on a label of bread or pasta. Otherwise, the product could say "wheat" but not really include whole grains. 

From The Sonoma Diet by Dr. Connie Guttersen, R.D., PH.D.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Blueberries: An Everyday Special Treat


If you think blueberries are only baked in muffins, it's your loss. Think of blueberries now not as a rare but common special treat. Work them into your meals as much as possible. Although they're usually a tad pricier than other berries, they're worth the extra pennies.

The magic of blueberries comes from the astonishing amounts of antioxidants they contain. Only one food on the planet (red kidney beans) offer more antioxidants per serving than blueberries.
Many of those antioxidants are the same ones responsible for the heart-strengthening benefits of grapes and wine. That includes resveratrol which is well-documented for its heart protecting abilities and blueberries pack even more resveratrol than wine.

There is another amazing benefit. Eating blueberries regularly may slow down, and perhaps even reverse, the memory decline that comes with aging. Besides, blueberries reduce your risk of a whole slew of illnesses, including certain types of cancer, vision loss, and digestive disorders. One other protective effect, however, stands out.

Blueberries contain the same bacteria-inhibiting phytonutrients as cranberries and so they probably have the ability to fend off urinary tract infections as cranberries do. Even the probability that they do help gives you one more reason to indulge often in these sweet treats.

The Eating Tip:
Drop fresh sweet blueberries into whole grain cereals, topped with nonfat yogurt or just pop some into your mouth one by one as part of your healthy lifestyle.  

From The Sonoma Diet by Dr. Connie Guttersen, R.D., PH.D.

Whole Grain Blueberry Muffins with Shredded Coconuts

Princess Milou and I spent the whole Saturday at the International Book Fair helping her super-dad sell the children's map of Bosnia and Herzegovina which he illustrated himself and today he's been awarded the Prize for the most original project of the fair. Here is a view of the map showing only Sarajevo. When I have better pictures, I will share them with you immediately. This will give a rough idea of the map, I hope. Let me tell you something about this map: I've been living in Sarajevo for the last three and a half years and this is the first map of the whole country with such educative and fun details for children. I'm happy for Milou that her daddy is so gifted. Well done.

Anyway, we were dead tired at the end of our day  at the fair and the next morning we weren't able to make it for it once again. As part of my own efforts to keep Milou entertained fully all Sunday long, I decided to bake some muffins and once again we used what we had on hand: Whole wheat flour, thawed blueberries from the freezer, and shredded coconuts. The result was fantastic: Whole grain blueberry muffins with shredded coconuts. Yummy! I've already told you that I like making these kinds of spontaneous recipes. They are the fruits of unexpected inspiration which you can bake and then dig in.Here is the recipe.


  • Ingredients
  •  3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder, leveled
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup shredded coconuts
  •  
     Directions
    1. Preheat the oven to 200 °C and lightly grease or line  a muffin pan with paper baking cups
    2. In a large bowl, blend together the flour, baking powder, and salt. 
    3. In a medium bowl, beat the egg and the sugar until creamy. Add the milk, oil and the vanilla extract. Mix them all until smooth.
    4. Combine the two mixtures, blending until the dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in the blueberries and coconuts. Use a wooden spoon and don't stir much. 
    5. Fill the muffin cups about three-quarters full. Sprinkle with ground walnut and cinnamon. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. 
    6. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Lemon Coconut Muffins



I've noticed something about my cooking and baking adventures. They are, almost all of them, the consequences of coincidental inspiration. Let me explain through a latest example. Last night I saw Princess Milou helping herself to some granulated sugar with a teaspoon. While she was enjoying it to the full, I didn't want to grab it away just because it was refined sugar which is notoriously so unhealthy. Instead of preaching on how sugar might ruin our health, I fetched the nearest grater and distracted her by showing how to grate lemons to get the zest. It wasn't something planned. The only thing in my mind was to direct her attention something else and I had only that one or two seconds of thinking to find something more interesting than eating granulated sugar. And fortunately she was immediately hooked and forgot about the sugar snack at all. After a couple of minutes, we had a small pile of fresh zest that we could use in some muffins. I already knew we could use only lemon zest in muffin batter but I wanted to accompany it with something matching. I could find nothing but shredded coconuts in the drawers and they did their best as the zest-mate in the muffins. In the end, after that half an hour of preparation and baking, the lemon-coconut muffins smelled so alluring that I was thankful to my instant bursts of imagination and inspiration. My effort to prevent Milou from having some unnecessary refined sugar turned into marvelous lemon coconut muffins in seconds. I like those moments. 
 
Ingredients


2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup shredded coconut
rind of 1 lemon, grated
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup milk
2 eggs



Directions
Preheat oven to 200C.  Line a 12-hole muffin pan with paper muffin cases.  Sift the flour into a large bowl.  Stir in coconuts,the grated rind of 1 lemon and sugar into the flour mixture and make a well in the centre. 
In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together oil, milk and egg.  Add the lemon extract to egg mixture, then add to flour. Stir gently until mixutre is just combined. Fill muffin cases 3/4 with mixture. 
Bake for 20 minutes or until muffins are well risen and get golden.  Leave in pan for for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.



Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bell Peppers: Ringing in the Nutrients

They are lightweight vegetables bursting with nutrition. They're a classic Mediterranean vegetable brought to southern Europe from the New World by the Spanish in the 16th century and today they grow anywhere that's not too cold. Their power comes from their colours: green, purple, red, yellow, and orange are all pyhtonutrient-rich. Whichever color they have, all bell peppers are highly heart-healthy, cancer-preventive and sight-saving. They all have generous natural doses of the antioxidant vitamins A, C, B6 and folic acid all of which  protect against heart disease. Red bell peppers pack a bonus of antioxidant which gives them their color. Its specialty is cancer fighting reducing your risk of colon, cervix, bladder, pancreas, and prostate cancers. Bell peppers also offer protection against lung disease and lung cancer. What's more, the antioxidants in bell peppers help stave off age-related vision problems, such as cataracts and protect against vision loss.                                                                                                                                
 The Food Tip                                                                                                                  
 Taste bell peppers in a variety of colors and notice the subtle flavour differences. All the colors are loaded with nutrients, so you can't go wrong. And they're healthy and tasty raw or cooked.

From The Sonoma Diet by Dr. Connie Guttersen, R.D., PH.D.


Almonds: Full of Health Benefits

 

The fat in almonds is primarily heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, the same type found in olives, olive oil, avocados, and other nuts.Almonds decrease the risk for heart disease. Eating one ounce of almonds daily (about a handful), as part of a healthy lifestyle, reduces LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff) and thereby reduces your overall heart disease risk. 

Besides, the fat contained in almonds is not completely absorbed into the body because of the fibrous makeup of almonds. This means almonds actually help you lose weight. 

Almonds are protective against cancer and diabetes as well. And eating almonds on a regular basis may decrease other risk factors in the blood that are related to artery-damaging inflammation. 
Almonds stand out as especially rich in calcium - in fact, they're one of the best nondairy calcium sources. They also deliver plenty of protein, copper, zinc, potassium, magnesium, and B vitamins. And almonds supply antioxidants nutrients, most notably in this case vitamin E. 

Shopping Tip
Choose plain almonds, not sugar or salt covered ones. To bring out the flavour at home, toast them for a few minutes in a warm oven.

From The Sonoma Diet by Dr. Connie Guttersen, R.D., PH.D.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Almond Pudding (Keşkül)


I've looked almost every supermarket in Sarajevo for ground almonds but unfortunately I wasn't able to find until my birthday last week. I think it's because Bosnian people usually buy almonds and grind them at home if there is any need for the ground ones. Since they don't have many recipes calling for ground almonds, it's quite difficult to find ground almonds on the shelves. Even when you find them, they are the products from Germany or some neighboring countries. Anyway, I've been looking for ground almonds to make 'keskul' which is basically a milk pudding with ground almonds in it. It's an Ottoman specialty that people in Turkey still enjoy making and eating. When you look at the ingredients, you'll see how simple it is to make. 

Ingredients
750 ml milk
35 gr rice flour
120 gr sugar
25-50 gr ground almonds 

Directions
1. In a small bowl, mix rice flour, almonds, sugar, and make sure there are no lumps.  
2. Add this mixture to the milk. Bring to boil over low heat stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, always in the same direction.  
3. When you see the bubbles keep stirring for another 3-5 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and set aside. Pour into serving cups and let it cool down. Refrigerate after 1-2 hours. Serve cold. 

7. Garnish with nuts and spices. You could use cinnamon, flaked coconuts, almonds, pistachios, or even fresh fruits like strawberries etc. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Strawberries


Strawberries not only deliver the fiber, vitamins, and minerals you expect from a fruit but also provide a generous dose of especially beneficial phytochemicals. That combination makes strawberries a surprisingly potent health booster for your heart, joints, and even your mind. When you treat yourself to a moderate amount of fresh strawberries frequently, you're providing your body with a unique assortment of phenols (a broad category of phytonutrients). These are antioxidants, acting like rust busters to keep cells healthy and minimize the harm of cholesterol accumulating in your arteries. They also reduce dangerous inflammation throughout the body working like aspirin. That provides even more heart protection. What's more, eating strawberries has a brain-saving effect. Eating strawberries regularly may literally save your memory. Last but not least, Eating strawberries regularly protect you from cancer, age-related vision impairment, and rheumatoid arthritis.


Shopping Tip:
Strawberries perish quickly but freeze (and thaw) well. So go ahead and buy a big sack of frozen strawberries to last you for a week or so. Also look for straight0from0the0farm berries that were picked ripe, visit a local farmer's market or stop at a fresh fruit stand.

From The Sonoma Diet by Dr. Connie Guttersen, R.D., PH.D.

Pizza Sunday


Princess Milou and I woke a bit earlier this morning and once again we plundered the kitchen. The box of salty low-fat cheese my mom-in-low gave me a few days ago shone on my face with all its charm. Immediately I found myself picking the fresh active yeast from the upper shelf, and three medium ripe tomatoes and parsley from the lower shelf. I closed the fridge door and then reached for the cupboard where I keep the sesame seeds and the walnuts. The rest was as spontaneous as it usually happens. 


For the pizza topping:

Ingredients

3 cups plain flour*add more when needed
2 level teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons of sugar
3 teaspoons active fresh yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
3/4 cup vegetable oil

Directions
1. Dissolve yeast in warm water with sugar and salt. Add the vegetable oil. 
2. In a large bowl add the flour to the yeast water mixture and knead for approx. 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. Sprinkle with a little extra flour if it's too sticky. The dough should be quite soft so don't be tempted to add too much extra flour while kneading. 
3. Place the ball of dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a sheet. Allow to rise in a warm place for at least one hour (it should rise at least double in size).
4. Then, on a flour-dusted space take the air of the dough by simply kneading with your hands for a few minutes. Once this is done, roll the pizza to your desired thickness, shape and size. Alternatively, you can cut dough into smaller balls and roll each piece to form a smaller round.

Pizza Toppings
Ingredients

1.5 -2 cups salty low-fat cow-milk cheese
3 medium ripe tomatoes
parsley *finely chopped
sesame seeds
walnuts *crushed into small pieces
olive oil and oregano

Directions
1.Mix the cheese and parsley with a fork.
2. Top the pizza dough with half the cheese-parsley mixture, tomato slices, sesame seeds and  walnut pieces. Sprinkle with olive oil and oregano.
3. Bake pizza until crust is golden brown and crisp at 200C, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Fresh Strawberry Tea with Cinnamon Sticks, Cloves and Honey

 I've been searching on the Internet for some homemade remedies for a sore throat but I wasn't able to find any recipes that I could use with the ingredients on hand. So, once again, I rummaged in the fridge and the cupboards. I found some frozen strawberries, cinnamon sticks, cloves and honey. I filled a big pan with almost 3 liters of water and added 250 gr of strawberries, 1 small cinnamon stick and two cloves.


I boiled them together until the strawberries lost their bright color and became pale (almost white) and then added 2.5 tablespoons of honey letting it boil for another 10 to 15 minutes. When I removed the pan from the stove, it smelled so charming that I imagined myself boiling some love potion with magic spells at Hogwarts. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Pizza salami


Saturday breakfasts make you much happier with a home-made pan pizza which has a much thicker crust than many other kinds of pizza. Here comes the recipe of the one on today's menu: Pizza salami! 

The pizza dough
Ingredients

3 cups plain flour*add more when needed
2 level teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons of sugar
3 teaspoons active fresh yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
3/4 cup vegetable oil

Directions
1. Dissolve yeast in warm water with sugar and salt. Let stand until creamy looking about 10 minutes. Add the vegetable oil. Make sure all the ingredients you've had at room temperature.
2. In a large bowl add the flour to the yeast water mixture and knead for approx. 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. Sprinkle with a little extra flour if it's too sticky. The dough should be quite soft so don't be tempted to add too much extra flour while kneading. 
3. Place the ball of dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a sheet. Allow to rise in a warm place for at least one hour (it should rise more than double in size).
4. Then, on a flour-dusted space take the air of the dough by simply kneading with your hands for a few minutes. Once this is done, roll the pizza to your desired thickness, shape and size. Alternatively, you can cut dough in half and roll each piece to form a smaller round.

Pizza Toppings
Ingredients

3/4 cup tomato sauce
1.5 -2 cups grated gouda cheese
sliced salami *as much as you wish
Vegetable oil

Directions
1. Top the pizza dough with tomato sauce, half the the cheese, sliced salami, and  the rest of the cheese again. Sprinkle with olive oil and oregano.
6. Bake pizza until crust is golden brown and crisp at 200C, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Spiced corn bread with cottage cheese: Nigella seeds, ground garlic and ground dried mint



I ♥ ♥ ♥ cooking! This is how I'm feeling today. While enjoying a lazy Saturday at home with Princess Milou, I craved for some snacks as usual. So we rummaged in the cupboards and we were only able to find some corn flour, cottage cheese and fresh yeast. The idea of some spiced corn bread was over there too. In a few minutes the preparation was completed and we poured the dough into the heart shaped baking tin as the final touch to my overwhelming mood of the day. When I removed it from the oven, it smelled fantastic and when we devoured it even better. If you like corn bread, try it with some spices next time. You won't regret it! This spiced corn bread can be served before, during, or at the end of a meal or even as healthy and satisfying snacks with tea.

Ingredients
All amounts depend on your taste.
Cornmeal
Cottage cheese
25 gr fresh yeast
warm water
salt and sugar
ground garlic
ground dried mint
nigella seeds
olive oil






Directions
1. Preheat oven to175 degrees C. Line a baking pan with parchment paper.
2. Dissolve yeast in warm water with sugar and salt. Let it stand about 10 minutes.
3. Stir in cornmeal until  you get a lumpy batter. Add in the cheese, garlic, mint and olive oil and stir. Allow to rise in a warm place for at half an hour. It won't rise as much as the dough with other grain breads does. So, don't worry when it only slightly rises. 
4. Spread butter evenly in prepared pan. Sprinkle with nigella seeds, and be generous. Bake until golden and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. 





Soy Cubes with zucchini, kale and raisins



Soy cubes trial # 1: Mission accomplished. Here comes the recipe for soy cubes with zucchini, kale and raisins.


Ingredients
50 g soy cubes
2-3 leaves kale, sliced into small pieces
1 small zucchini, cut into small cubes
1/2 cup raisins
salt
boiling water
olive oil


Directions
1. Put 1 tablespoon olive oil into a small pan.
2. Add the soy cubes, zucchini cubes and kale leaves. 
3. Add boiling water until it covers the ingredients and add salt. 
4. Stir and cook until the vegetables are done with the lid on. Add more boiling water if needed. 
5. Before you remove the pan from the stove, add the raisins.
6. Serve warm and enjoy it.

Simple Oat Bars AKA Flapjacks


I am reading one of those New York Time best sellers, The Sonoma Diet by Dr. Connie Guttersen, R.D., PH.D. This is the first book on any kind of diets I've been reading. Such books have always sounded unnecessary to me: Silly me assuming that every human being is born with enough knowledge on foods and drinks and for that reason lecturing on diets seemed useless to me.Well, I started to read this book not because I need a trimmer waist but because I've been suffering from some sort of stomach problems and trying to produce some solutions avoiding pills. 
One of my colleagues lent me the book so that it could inspire me with different ways of cooking with the foods which I've been already using. I'll start sharing bits and pieces from the book with you soon but for now I feel free to say that the foods and the diet itself are quite familiar with me.I wasn't amazed at the ideas introduced throughout the book because Turkish cuisine already includes almost all of the stuff mentioned in the book as part of the Mediterranean cuisine.Well, the last part I read in the book was about whole grains and I learnt a lot. I closed the book, headed for the kitchen, had a look at the cupboards and came up with these easy and super healthy oat bars aka flapjacks. Here comes the recipe. Feel free to vary the ingredients to what you have in the cupboard.Here comes the recipe. Feel free to vary the ingredients to what you have in the cupboard.



Ingredients
2 cup oats 
1/2 cup butter, melted
50 grams rice flour
3/4 cup apple syrup
Ground cinnamon
Ground ginger
Sesame seeds

Directions
1. Pre-heat oven to 185 degrees C.

2. Melt together butter and syrup. 

3. Stir in the oats, cinnamon, ginger, rice flour and sesame seeds until all the dry ingredients are well coated.

4. Line a baking tin with baking paper.

5. Tip the mixture into the tin. Press down firmly and spread it over the tin. Cut into squares or rectangles. 

6. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave until cold before removing from tin. 

7. Store in an airtight container. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Home-made pizza with minced beef, mushrooms and gouda cheese


Remember the breakfast I mentioned in the previous post? Well, I thought it would be nice to have some pizza on the menu but I didn't have a variety of ingredients in the cupboards and the fridge so I used all I had on hand. The result was a yummy pizza with minced beef, mushrooms and gouda cheese. Good enough, isn't it? Here comes the recipe. 

 The pizza dough
Ingredients

3 cups plain flour*add more when needed
2 level teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons of sugar
3 teaspoons active fresh yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
3/4 cup vegetable oil

Directions
1. Dissolve yeast in warm water with sugar and salt. Let stand until creamy looking about 10 minutes. Add the vegetable oil. Make sure all the ingredients you've had at room temperature.
2. In a large bowl add the flour to the yeast water mixture and knead for approx. 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. Sprinkle with a little extra flour if it's too sticky. The dough should be quite soft so don't be tempted to add too much extra flour while kneading. 
3. Place the ball of dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a sheet. Allow to rise in a warm place for at least one hour (it should rise more than double in size).
4. Then, on a flour-dusted space take the air of the dough by simply kneading with your hands for a few minutes. Once this is done, roll the pizza to your desired thickness, shape and size. Alternatively, you can cut dough in half and roll each piece to form a smaller round.

Pizza Toppings
Ingredients

1 large onion
250 gr minced-beef
3/4 cup tomato sauce
1 cup sliced mushrooms*more if you wish
1 cup grated gouda cheese*more if you wish 
Vegetable oil

Directions
1. While the dough is rising, add a small drizzle of vegetable oil to a large frying pan.

2. Fry the onions and garlic over a low heat till soft.
3. Add the minced meat and stir fry till meat is half cooked. 
4. Sprinkle in the spices and remove from the heat. Set aside. Now you’ve got the topping.
5. Top the pizza dough with tomato sauce, half the the cheese, the minced beef-onion mixture, sliced mushrooms the rest of the cheese again. Sprinkle with oregano.
6. Bake pizza until crust is golden brown and crisp at 200C, about 15 to 20 minutes.