Saturday, December 3, 2016

Fesitve Chocolate Barks

Are you ready for the festive season? I think I am not yet. Temperatures are still quite high, except for a few days last week. When outside, I feel more like going hiking than staying at home and baking Christmas cookies the whole day. Weather-wise we had such an awful summer here in Luxembourg, that I am excited to go outside whenever the sun is shining. 

This weekend however, I'll also meet with a friend that I haven't seen for such a long while. As my friend is from the Balkans and brings me delicious Ajvar very often, I thought it would be a nice idea to share some delicious chocolate bars with him this time. Little side note: he is a real chocoholic, so I am sure he will love this gift. 

I do love chocolate. I love it so much that I could barely do without. Lately I've discovered my love for black chocolate as well. I tried some delicious versions with dried fruits, popped quinoa or nutty chunks. That's when I thought that offering homemade chocolate barks would be a lovely idea. 

The essential thing when making these barks is that you really have to be careful what chocolate or what additional produce you choose. Always opt for good quality ingredients. The more you check on that, the healthier these little treats become. The black barks introduced in this blog posts are quite healthy: dried cranberries with no added sugar, good quality black chocolate and raw pistachios. For the milk chocolate it gets a bit harder indeed. But still, ensuring that you choose the right products is still a plus. 

For about 2 boxes you'll need:

200g dark chocolate
200g milk chocolate
1 handful walnuts
1 handful pistachios
1 handful banana chips
1 handful cranberries

Line a baking tray with a sheet of parchment paper. Melt the black chocolate over a double boiler until totally liquid. Pour the chocolate onto the baking tray and spread it out into a thin layer. Then sprinkle the pistachios and cranberries on top of the chocolate and press it them in lightly. Refrigerate the bark for 20-30 minutes to let it harden. Break the bark into uneven pieces. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

For the milk chocolate barks, proceed the same way as for the dark chocolate ones. Chop the walnuts and banana chips before sprinkling them on the chocolate layer.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Homemade Rucola Pesto

Today we are celebrating the first advent. I find this is the perfect moment to think about gifts for the year-end festivities. It's the time of the year you're invited to plenty of pre-Christmas, post-Christmas, pre-New Year's events. For some of them there's a Secret Santa session involved, for others you'd just like to bring something nice for the hosts. Either way, it's always a good idea to bring thoughtful and useful gifts. 

I love to offer gifts from the kitchen. Last year I mainly offered sweet gifts. People were happy about the cookies and pralines, but for this year, I added some savory recipes to the list. May I introduce the first one: Rucola Pesto. When browsing on the net, I stumbled upon a similar version, which inspired me to transform my usual pesto recipe into this delish Rucola Pesto. Before posting this recipe I tested the outcome of course. And I have to admit; I am very very positively surprised about the fast. What I like most about this pesto is that, compared to the traditional basil pesto, it has a little spiciness without having to add additional ingredients to it. 

For one medium-sized jar you need:

120g rucola
2 small garlic cloves
50g pine nuts
50 Parmesan
100ml extra virgin olive oil
pepper & salt

Traditionally Pesto is prepared in a mortar. Adding up first the greens and garlic, then the nuts and cheese and finally the olive oil. 

As most of us don't own a mortar, I suggest you just use a food processor. Add all the ingredients to a food processor. Mix until creamy. Season with salt and pepper. 

Fill the pesto into a middle-sized jar.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

German Apple Cake

I think this recipe was the biggest challenge in baking I have been facing so far. Why? Because I had to develop the recipe from childhood memories. Let me tell you the whole story behind this cake. When my grandfather retired in 1993 he started baking. At first he would bake Christmas cookies, then he started baking various kinds of traditional cakes to finally bake pastry-shop style birthday cakes for the whole family. As I was only 8 years old when he started, one of the first cakes we baked together was the one from the German children's song 'backe backe Kuchen'. 

As my grandfather evolved rapidly in his baking techniques, one of his traditional recipes became the 'versunkener Apfelkuchen'. Every autumn he would spoil my family with this apple cake. When he passed away in 2003, my grandmother gave me many of his recipes, but unfortunately he had not written down the apple cake recipe. At the beginning I was very sad, because no one managed to bake an apple cake  like his. I decided to accept that we'd never have this cake again, because all the copies I tasted were very disappointing.

No later than this summer I decided to give it a try and develop my own German apple cake recipe, which is worthy to be compared to the original. With my grandma we tried to remember all the ingredients there were and put together a list. Then I started researching on the Internet and found some similar cakes. But there was always missing at least one of our ingredients. But from my research I managed at least to create a valuable foundation to create my own recipe.

Family, friends and colleagues approved the recipes so far, so I think I can say that I did my part in reconstructing the recipe. Working very close to a famous Luxembourg apple orchard, I will definitely be baking more than one 'versunkener Apfelkuchen' this season. 

For one cake you need:

3 apples
380g flour
250g sugar
250g butter
4 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
80g ground almonds
150 ml heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 180°

In a bowl, whisk together the butter and sugar until well combined. Add the eggs and mix again. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. Add the vanilla extract as well as the ground almonds and mix again. Now you can add the dry ingredients to the butter-egg mix. Add the heavy cream until you get an even and silky dough. 

Peel the apples, release the core and cut them into quarters. Then cut carefully lengthwise into the apples. Pour the dough into a buttered cake tin and place the apple quarters onto the dough. 

Bake for 60 minutes, then check with a skewer if the dough is completely baked. If it comes out clean your cake is ready.


Saturday, September 3, 2016

Blueberry Pancakes

I promised you I would bring delicious recipes back from my trip to New York. So this is the first one I will share with you. Blueberry pancakes - they're really fluffy and I am happy about the result. The blueberries give these little bad boys a fruity note. Combined with the fluffy pancakes you might think you are eating a fruity cloud. Sounds crazy - but according to me this is an accurate comparison ;-).

I have to admit that I only ate real American pancakes twice in my life; the first time during my trip to New York in 2013. I was not that convinced about these huge dry discs (as I used to call them). Talking to some of my friends they explained to me that what I had there were not the best version of their favorite breakfast. Alright I thought - next time I will give them a second chance. This year, when I went back to New York, I had to be true to my words. Those following my on Instagram saw that my breakfast treat at Extra Virgin was just perfect. Fluffy pancakes with loads of berries and a little maple syrup to round it all up. I left all prejudice aside and am now an official fan of pancakes. 

Pancakes are part of the list of foods that I saw on TV years before I first tried them. Back in the days, when someone talked about pancakes I always thought about sitcoms or movies I used to be watching during my teenage years. Children would always get pancakes or waffles for breakfast. Back here in Europe, breakfast rarely includes pancakes, and when it does, they're not the fluffy kind of pancakes but rather Belgian crêpes. The only had real pancakes twice in my life. As mentioned about, since my last trip I really like them but I couldn't eat pancakes every morning. Already that I have to force myself to have breakfast, I would be a little bit too lazy to prepare a stack of them at 7 am. 

For 10 pancakes you need:
2 eggs
200ml milk
170ml buttermilk
2 tbsp melted butter
270g flour
1 tbsp baking powder
2 tbsp sugar
75g blueberries 

blueberries, raspberries and maple syrup to serve.

Il a bowl whisk the eggs on high speed. Add the milk and buttermilk as well as the melted butter. In another bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and sugar. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until you get an even dough. Slowly add the blueberries and mix. 

Melt a knob of butter in a frying pan. Add 3/4 of a soupspoon into the pan. Cook the pancakes over medium heat until the first bubbles appear on the surface. Now they're ready to be turned. Wait another 60 seconds until you take them out of the pan. 

Stack the pancakes on a plate one after another. When all the pancakes are ready, top them with blue- and raspberries and pour some maple syrup over it all. 


Monday, May 30, 2016

Giant Chocolate Cookies

The weather outside is terrible. It hasn't literally stopped raining for 12 hours over here. The roads are flooded and atmosphere makes you feel like we're just a few seconds away from the apocalypse. Some of my colleagues are stuck on the highway and others even find their way home totally flooded. As a reminder dear weather gods, today we're writing May 30th, and we were expecting everything but rain at this time of the year!!!

Well.. I guess complaining won't change anything anyways. The least one can say is that on days like these, we need comfort food. I usually go for the 'sunshine in your plate' option with loads of fruit and veg, but even a big fat colorful salad couldn't make up for the big fat raindrops today. Luckily I took some cookies to work as well. My colleagues loved and hated me at the same time today because of the  great taste as they said on one hand and the high amount of carbs and chocolate on the other. Well from time to time, it's not that big of a deal. As long as your main meals are well-balanced.

For around 16 cookies you'll need:

250g flour
50g cacao powder
280g sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 pinch of salt
220g butter
1 large egg
2 tbsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180°

In a large bowl combine most of the dry ingredients such as flour, cacao, salt and baking powder.

In another bowl, whisk together the sugar and half of the butter until you obtain a fluffy dough. Melt the other half of the butter and pour into the sugar-butter mixture. Now add the egg and the vanilla extract and mix again until you get an even dough. Then slowly pour in the flour-cacao mixture.

Line a baking tray with a sheet of baking paper. With two tablespoons form medium-sized balls (diameter 6cm), which you then place onto the baking tray and slightly flatten them. Make sure to leave a distance of 10cm between them. 

Bake the cookies for 18 to 20 minutes.


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Cherry Coconut Granola

When I think granola, I think crunchiness, raw foods and energising elements. Unfortunately, many store-bored products are full of refined sugar and don't provide you with the nutriments you expect. At first, I thought making your own granola would be time consuming and complicated. A reason why I often went for the regular müsli. But let's be honest. müsli is granola's boring little sister. 

Following my fellow food bloggers, I saw granola recipes popping up everywhere. Foodies all over the world claim that you can make your own recipes in a glimpse of time. I have to admit that I was very skeptical at the beginning, but then I decided to give it a try. 

I was evaluating what ingredients I would expect. Dried fruits for sure because of their softness and sweetness. Then I wanted nuts. Nuts are a must because of their crunchiness and the good elements they provide you with.

You have many different ingredients to bind your granola with so I tried different combinations. For the present granola recipe I found the oil and maple syrup combination a good one because it would emphasise the nuttiness of this granola. The sweetness of the maple syrup goes very well with the dried fruits. I promise you there are some more variations to come and you'll find out for yourself which binder combination suits you best. 

For around 1kg granola you need:
70g pumpkin seeds
70 sunflower seeds
50 lin seeds
625g oats
150 chopped almonds
50g coconut flakes
1 tbsp cinnamon
125ml rice syrup
125ml maple syrup
1 pinch of sea salt
125ml extra virgin olive oil
1,5 tsp vanilla extract
50g dried apricots
50g sultanas
120g dried cherries

Preheat the oven to 150°

Prepare two rimmed baking trays with baking paper, then set aside.

If the different seeds are not yet cleaned, place them in a medium-sized bowl, fill it with water, swish the seeds around and let them settle for a while. Then pour the seed-mix into a strainer in order to pour off the water.

If your seeds are all clean, whisk them together as well in a medium-sized bowl.

In a second but larger bowl, place the oats, almonds, coconut flakes and cinnamon. Mix well to combine all the ingredients. Now stir the seeds into the oat mixture.

In a saucepan, warm the rice and maple syrup over medium heat. Add some salt and stir until the mixture begins to simmer. Now remove from the heat, pour in the olive oil and vanilla extract.

Pour the olive oil syrup mixture over the dry ingredients and stir regularly until all the ingredients are evenly combined.

Divide the unbaked granola between the two baking trays and bake for 15 minutes.

Now stir the mixture, rotate the baking trays and bake another 10 minutes. Repeat the procedure and bake for another 5 to ten minutes until the granola is golden and crunchy.

Place the warm granola into a large bowl, add the dried fruits and toss gently.

Wait until the granola has completely cooled down until you start deciding it in jars.


Sunday, March 20, 2016

Almond Maca Energy Bites

Over the last months I have done a lot of research on nutrition and the benefits of the so-called super foods. In times, where high performance is key, I was wondering where I could get my energy from and more precisely, which foods I could get it from. I am not a fan of energy drinks or supplements, that's why I got interested in which foods could provide me with what elements in order to stay energized the whole day.

 At some point I discovered Maca, a root cultivated in a narrow, high-altitude zone of the Andes in Peru. This root was already cultivated 2500 years ago. The Incas, cultivated, dried and transformed it into powder for centuries, and it has emerged as one main source of income for the people of the Andes.

Maca has many benefits, but the one I was interested in was its boosting effect. For centuries it has been used to fight fatigue among the indigenous peoples. Combined with dates, almonds, and chia seeds it makes up for a perfect snack. These additional ingredients provide also loads of goodness to compose this healthy snack. Chia seeds for instance are loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids, protein and fiber as well as various micronutrients. The dates however are a great source of potassium and rich in copper. They also contribute to keep you full for a long time hence curbing the cravings. 

Now you know which power-packed snack I consume. I can assure you that 2-3 balls keep you going for hours. As this recipe is in regular rotation in my home, I have offered these balls, to some of my friends. It would also make a great recipe for my 'Gifts from the Kitchen' section. My friends also recommend them as pre- or post-workout snacks, which I can perfectly understand for the reasons mentioned above. 

 For about 30 balls you need:

460g roughly chopped Medjool dates
270g raw almonds
45g cacao raw powder
2,5 tbsp almond butter
2 tbsp coconut oil
2tbsp maca powder
2tbsp chia seeds

Place the almonds into your food processor and pulse until they're completely crushed. Pit the dates, chop them and add them to the food processor. Pour in the cacao powder, almond butter and coconut oil, pulse again until all the ingredients are well-combined. Now add the chia seeds and maca powder and mix again until you get an even mixture.

Place the mixture into a medium sized bowl. Now roll the mix into equally sized balls. In order for the balls to set well, place them into the freezer for 45 minutes. Then put them into an airtight container and store in the fridge. 


Monday, February 15, 2016

White Chocolate Raspberry Pralines

No, this is no cheesy belated Valentine's blog post. Actually, this blog post is again about sharing love through food. You remember when I recently published my first recipe for the 'gifts from the kitchen' section. I couldn't help but repeat myself; edible gifts are always the best gifts. Sometimes, one just doesn't need a special occasion, sometimes it's just because you want to say thank you or show some love.

I would say that rather often, when we're invited to a dinner party we tend to bring a bottle of wine or flowers, which are definitely nice gifts as well. But as a foodie at heart, I decided I would rather go for homemade gifts in the future. Many recipes are easy to make and allow you to bring something more personal. 

Not so long ago I bought these little praline molds and. The plan was, to prepare some pralines for Christmas to offer them to my colleagues. But as usual, the holiday season is a very busy season. Everyone wants to complete their projects and that's why I didn't' really manage to experiment in the kitchen. Just a few days ago, while daydreaming about yummy food again, I had this idea about making some pralines at last. 

I was lucky enough that all the crafting stores were selling decorative hearts because of Valentine's Day. Well.. at least this allowed me to find some details to decorate my packaging. As you can see in the picture, even the gift tag spreads some love. One thing I can ensure, that these gifts are definitely 'made with love'.

For 30 pralines you need:

450g white chocolate
100g raspberries
red food coloring paste

Melt the chocolate over a hot water bath until completely molten. Add the food coloring paste an set aside. Put the raspberries into your blender or food processor and blend until smooth. 

Take one teaspoon and place the chocolate into the silicone heart mold. Then add half a teaspoon of raspberry purée to it. Finally place another spoon of chocolate until the mold is full. Repeat. Once you filled all the hearts, cool in the fridge for half an hour. 

Once cooled, pop out of the mold and enjoy!

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