Tag Archives: Flourless

Haloumi: The Official Food of Australia’s Crappy Athletes

Haloumi 1Photography by Asia Upward, Styling by Ali Nardi

Admittedly that post title is not technically %100 true. Haloumi is not the official food of anything other than the following salad recipe, and Australia’s athletes are not %100 crappy. In fact, only Australians, particularly the Olympic commentators seem to think their athletes are crappy.

I love living in Australia mainly because the quality of life here is so great. High work wages, free health care, good weather, lots of space, the list goes on. And because Australia has all of these high standards for quality of living, I find that frequently on occassion Australians whine get mildly upset when they don’t get something they feel entitled too. And no where has this attitude been more apparent then the consistently negative and critical coverage of their own athletes in the Olympics.

A typical interview tends to go something like this (fictional discussion based on my own perception of commentators interviewing athletes):

Commentator: “How does it feel to get fourth when you were so close to getting on the podium?”

Athlete: “I’m so proud. It feels great to get to be at olympics and I gave it my all.”

Commentator: “Yes, but how disappointing is it not to get gold?”

Athelete: “I’m just so excited at what I accomplished and I’m looking forward to the next olympics in 4 years.”

Commentator: “Ok, but how does it feel to totally suck for not winning the gold, which is the only thing that matters,” and so on a so forth.

I’ve also never witnessed Olympic commentators who are so eager to see fellow competitors fall, crash, or slip so their athletes can gain a spot on the podium. I mean, is that really how you want to win? Hoping your opponent takes a fall trying something daring and worthy of gold while you play it safe? I don’t think so, and I don’t think Australia’s Olympic athletes do either, but hey, I can only speak for myself…

So this post is in dedication to Australia’s Olympic Athletes who I think are doing a pretty swell job in the most prestigious athletic competition in the world. Chumpy might have gotten wiped out in border cross, but man is he good looking. And David Morris didn’t win the gold, but he dressed in bright yellow for his follow-up interview which is just as good.

haloumi 2

Australia loves haloumi, they support haloumi, they believe in haloumi. They should probably start treating their athletes more like haloumi short of eating them, and make this awesome Haloumi, Rockmelon (Cantalope), Almond and Basil Salad instead. Cook time is minimal, so you don’t have to linger by the heat on a sweltering Melbourne day, and it’s super simple to prepare so you can reserve your energy for things like walking down the block, or getting the lid off your water bottle which you have probably refilled at least ten times when Melbourne is at it’s worst. I serve it as a main–it is refreshing and filling, and won’t bog you down. It’s definitely worthy of a gold :)

haloumi 3

Ingredients:

  • 12  1/3″ thick slices haloumi cheese (it’s the “meat in this dish” so i don’t skimp!)
  • 1/2 rockmelon/cantalope, cut into bite size pieces
  • 1/4 cup chopped or slivered almonds, lightly toasted
  • 1/2 french shallot, thinly sliced
  • a handful of basil, leaves picked and large ones torn
  • a few handfuls mixed salad greens

For the dressing: Mix olive oil, fresh lemon juice, and sald and pepper to taste

1.Over medium high heat on the BBQ/grill, or on a grill pan or regular fry pan, cook  haloumi pieces in a bit of oil until golden brown on both sides (if doing this directly on the BBQ, just brush haloumi with oil). This only takes a few minutes on either side.

2. Combine remaining salad ingredients with dressing,  lay haloumi pieces on top and drizzle with a bit of extra dressing. Simple as that. Enjoy!

Start the Week Right: Tahini Date Refrigerator Snacks

tahini balls 2

Photography by Kim Mennen, Styling by Ali Nardi

Clearly these are balls, but I’m too immature to use the word balls in the title for one of my posts…

I have been eating terribly lately! Lack of time means less making food at home, which means more eating out, which means eating a lot more junk, which means–you get the point. If I don’t take some time to make some healthy snacks to have in the house, and keep my fridge and pantry stocked with good stuff, as opposed to loading the freezer up with pizzas (it’s been known to happen), a vicious cycles begins. And I don’t think I’m alone…

I become addicted to the bad stuff, and lose interest in the better tasting homemade stuff, that also happens to be so much healthier, and make me feel so much better physically and mentally. I become sluggish, achy, and kind of cranky.

But then it becomes a bit too “icky” and I wake up one morning ready to start getting it right again. Today was a Monday, which I think is a great excuse for a fresh start. I ate good things all day, and then Anders gave me and my workout buddy a free personal training session (along with an elderly Chinese woman named Lily who came over to practice her English and then slipped her way into our training session). No, I am not a health nut who lives my daily life that way, but I try. Often, a workout just means I can then go have a greasy cheese burger after so I break even if you know what I mean, but I’m trying to get better at seeing the habbits in my life through for longer–not giving up burgers, or icecream–just having them less frequently. And I know having good snacks in the house helps me with this effort.

Anyway, the benders don’t really bother me that much, as long as I know I can squeeze my way back out of them, and button my pants again without it being too much of a struggle. The lack of time to make healthy food though is really still an issue at this juncture in my life, so finding some good, healthy, tasty snacks that aren’t too time consuming and don’t require me to turn on an oven can be tricky.

So thank goodness for Mona Hecke, author of The Lunchbox Revolution, and a former colleague who passed her “Protein Blast Balls” recipe onto me.  A kid’s lunchbox really is a great inspiration, as the point is healthy stuff without it tasting dull. I admit, I haven’t purchased her book and given it a good look, but based on how much I love this recipe, and the great feedback I received when I made them, I reckon it’s probably worth investing in.

tahini balls 5

There is no cooking, chopping, shredding, or even rinsing. You just need your ingredients, a measuring cup, and a food processor, and your ready to go. The whole process from start to finish is a quick 10-15 minutes, depending on how obsessive you are with getting those balls to look perfect. Your could also go with log shapes, or even squares. The choice is yours…. They last in a container in the fridge for ages, and you really only need one when you are after a pick me up. They are gluten free and dairy free. These are dense and delicious. The recipe calls for protein powder, which I realize isn’t something everyone has lying around. I only have access to it because Anders dabbles with the stuff… It ups the protein content of course, but it’s not gonna hurt anyone if you take it out.

tahini balls 4

tahini balls 3

Of course, I have made a few changes, apart from just changing the name…

  • I’ve taken out the agave, which I, and my fellow tasters, feel is unnecessary. The dates are definitely sweet enough on there own, and I don’t prepare food with agave. If you feel the need for extra sweetness, I recommend using honey instead, or adding a pinch of stevia.
  • Instead of almond meal, I’ve gone with LSA, which adds a bit more nutritional complexity.
  • I replaced goji berries with dried cranberries, because I prefer the taste, but also because they are a a bit out of my budget at the moment, and the budget for the rest of my life…  Also, someone I know will be eating these is allergic to them.
  • And finally, instead of just coating them in coconut, I recommend coating some in cacao powder.

Seriously good snacking grub…

Tahini Date Refrigerator Snacks

Adapted from The Lunchbox Revolution

Ingredients (Makes about 20 balls):

  • 1 cup LSA
  • 2 tbsp protein powder (optional/ vanilla protein works best for this recipe)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup shredded or dessicated coconut, plus extra to coat
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds
  • 10 medjool dates, pitted
  • Tahini to bind–I used roughly 1/3 cup
  • cacao powder to coat (optional)

Place everything into a food processor and blend until well ground and combined. Add tahini by the tablespoon until ingredients bind together. Shape into balls and roll in dessicated coconut or cacao. Store in fridge in an airtight container.

Flourless Pistachio Spice Cake

cake with wineThe best-worst thing I have been asked since being in NYC so far? “Excuse me, how do I get to ground zero?” I don’t have to explain the issue with that one. Other than that it is great. Weather is gorgeous, the food is great, and the people aren’t too cranky. My favorite bite so far was a really simple but beyond delicious Sicilian Panel Sandwich (i’m pretty sure the sandwich bit is the Italian American twist)– fried chickpea fritters  with a dollop of fresh ricotta and grated pecorino on a crispy light bun. I certainly couldn’t get away with a meal like that on a regular basis, but when I do eat something blatantly unhealthy, I go all in. And it’s not so often I get to spend time with my dad, who is a bit of an expert on the truly great yet hipsterless grub spots in Brooklyn. So when I am home, almost anything goes in the food category if I’m out for a meal.

Like I said though, I can’t or rather know I shouldn’t eat like that all the time, but I still crave the “naughty foods.” But you know my theory– If it’s gonna have bad stuff in it, make sure to add the extra good stuff too. And it’s just starting to get chilly enough to turn on the oven in NYC, which is the perfect reason to make this next recipe.

This is a Flourless Pistachio cake based on a recipe from Spice Trip: The Simple Way to Make Food Exciting by Stevie Parle and Emma Grazette. It’s a massive book and although it’s not particularly original–it’s more abut comfort food, with extra spice thrown in– it’s great way to get inspired in the kitchen. There are some cool spice-based health remedies in there as well.

Of course I healthied up their recipe a bit. I started by cutting the sugar in half (trust me, you won’t miss it). I also used coconut oil instead of butter and added cardamom to the recipe. I baked it in a much smaller cake pan than the one the recipe calls for (which i have provided measurements for below) and the result was a much taller cake with a crunchy outside and a slightly undercooked inside. This actually translated into a beautiful creamy texture on the inside and a nice firm shell with the called-for layer of pistachio crunch on the bottom. It worked. That being said, I am sure it is just as delicious when done in the original pan.

The original recipe is served with greek yogurt with orange zest. I have added those to the ingredient list below, but we all like it on it’s own (about 6 different people demolished tasted this cake).

pistachio cakeThis would go great with some fresh mint tea or even a bit of desert wine…

Flourless Pistachio Spice Cake

Adapted from: Spice Trip: The Simple Way to Make Food Exciting by Stevie Parle and Emma Grazette

Ingredients:

  • 150 grams ground pistachios, and 75 grams coarsely chopped pistachios
  • 200 grams almond meal
  • 120 grams coconut oil, soft but not melted (or softened butter)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 110 grams brown sugar (about 1/2 cup packed)
  • 250 grams Greek yogurt (extra to serve)
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • seeds from 5 green cardamom pods, ground in mortar and pestle.
  • Orange zest for yogurt (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F/ 180 C. Grease and line an 8″ (20 cm) spring form pan with baking paper (I use a 6″ pan). You can use a smaller cake tin to make a higher cake as in the photo above. Just adjust baking time appropriately.
  2. In a medium bowl, beat coconut oil with an electric beater until smooth. Add ground pistachios, almond meal, and salt, and beat to blend. If chunks of coconut oil form, just work mixture with your hands to knead out any lumps. Press half of the mixture evenly into the pan.
  3. To the remainder of the mixture, add eggs, sugar, yogurt, and spices and beat until mixture is smooth. Pour mixture into cake tin and scatter chopped pistachios on top.
  4. Bake for 45 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean and the cake is fairly firm if you press the top. If you make a higher cake in a smaller cake pan, make sure to cover the top of the cake after 45 minutes with foil so the top doesn’t brown too much.
  5. Allow to cool and serve with greek yogurt mixed with orange zest (optional). Keep leftovers refrigerated (I actually prefer this cake cold from the fridge).

Unemployed? Have a Cookie

cookies 4Photography by Asia Upward, Styling by Ali Nardi

My housemate really likes ice cream. We have a freezer full of it. Sure, it’s his ice cream, but it’s right there, and it’s not just one brand and one flavor. It’s a whole selection. Damn you Tom!

I repeat, it’s his ice cream. But like I said, there was so much of it, and right there! I cracked the other night and stole far more than a modest scoop. Then I felt like the horrible housemate who steals food, and excessively apologized the next morning. I started with, “I did something bad,” which is up there with “Can we talk,” as a phrase that fuels anxiety. It was a poor sentence to start with. I could see the color drain from his face and feel those unpleasant butterflies fluttering around in his ice cream coated belly. He was thoroughly relieved when he realized I was just talking about ice cream.

I’m unemployed. It’s a state of being that I personally find really challenging, especially after leaving a perfectly good job. But, I simply had to move to Melbourne, and I don’t regret that. And starting over is kind of habit of mine, except for the past almost three years, instead of flying solo I’ve got a start over buddy whose beard looks like haven for birds at the moment (it suits Melbourne though).

There is of course the honeymoon period, where everything is new and exciting, and honestly, my interest in Melbourne hasn’t worn off in the slightest, and I am genuinely thrilled to be here. There is just the fact that I will eventually need an income if I want to stay, and I definitely want to stay.

So now just simply isn’t the time to go cold turkey on sweets, or I could end up dipping into something much worse as the psychological effects of starting over yet again and being unemployed slowly but steadily chip away at my self-esteem.

I know, it’s not to the most interesting or dramatic vice, but god forbid I revert back to my smoking days. I lost track of how many times I had to quit to truly kick my addiction to those delicious cancer sticks, and for the past few years it has been breezy. I have maybe two a year just for the nostalgia factor, and the next day I feel hung over and shitty.  I couldn’t go back if I tried. My body won’t let me, not to mention Anders would hound me the same way I hound him about eating bacon EVERYDAY. And I am grateful for that (not the bacon part, just the rest).

Yeah, being unemployed can suck, and that’s nothing new. Depending on where you are in your life and what your goals are, it can be a good experience too, if you can motivate to go do some cool things with your new-found free-time that don’t cost anything. Currently I am working on building defensive forces against the negatives of unemployment by constantly distracting myself with projects.

But the negativity still managed to slip in. In fact, I feel like I cause a lot of my own grief over not having a job.

choc chip cookies 2 asia

For example: I feel rejected even when I’m not applying for jobs! This is the most ridiculous contradiction I experience. Even if I am actively NOT looking for a job, I still feel like no one wants to hire me. What? That one just makes me angry at myself, and it is probably annoying to read. You might be thinking I need a good slap and a shake. I don’t blame you.

Another thing: Being unemployed is an excellent conversation killer, but I could easily eradicate this problem by simply lying. When people ask you, “What do you do?” meaning “what do you do for a living?” and not what do you do in your spare time for fun (unless you are in San Francisco, where it actually means, “what do you do that makes you happy”), they often get uncomfortable when you can’t provide them with an answer. If you are speaking to a gainfully employed individual, chances are you are making them feel like unemployment is contagious, and they must exit the conversation post-haste to save their own pay check. So instead of saying, “Oh, I’m currently looking for a job….” or “Yeah, things are a bit slow right now….” I could be saying I teach Norwegian lions how to speak Spanish, or even better, I could say I am an Internal Project Manager Analayst Engineering Consultant. I guarantee no one will actually ask me details about that one.

Choc chip cookies

To cope with the “U” word, and that fact that I am back to having one friend within over 500 miles (shit that’s far, and true!–Anders alone has to act as my BFF, boyfriend, personal butler, and therapist all at once) , and so I don’t attempt to overcome the challenge of un-quitting smoking,  I indulge in sweets and watch The Biggest Loser in moments when I feel like throwing in the towel. Those are the bits I am willing to share with you at least. But I like to think I am being clever about it. I’ve been steadily baking sweets that aren’t going to harm me too much, and might actually help me on both the nutritional and psychological front. And ultimately, they prevent me from pilfering Tom’s ice cream.

choc chip cookies 3 asia

I do this by cutting out the flour (my usual MO) and adding some extra nutritional bits in there. There is a flourless chocolate chip cookie recipe from The Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods by Sara Forte with lovely photos by Hugh Forte that I  keep coming back to. (They also have a blog by the same name with loads of recipes.) It uses almond flour and is so easy and delicious, and it ain’t that bad for me (so I let myself have way to many which bring me back to square one). It is without a doubt my favorite flourless recipe so far, and one of my favorite recipes in general. I have adapted it just slightly by adding espresso and chia seeds for flavor and texture and to keep my energy levels up.

Chocolate Chip Chia Espresso Cookies

Adapted from: The Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods

Yields 22 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cups almond meal
  • ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ tsp espresso powder
  • ¼ cup chopped dark chocolate
  • ⅓ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 tblspn chia seeds (optional)
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter or coconut oil (or oil of choice), melted
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat over to 375 F/ 190 C
  2. Mix first 7 ingredients in a bowl as well as chia seeds if using.
  3. Beat egg until doubled in volume and foamy. Whisk in butter and vanilla (make sure butter has cooled so it doesn’t cook the egg!)
  4. Mix wet ingredients into dry and allow to stand for 10 minutes
  5. Wet hands, and roll dough into balls the size of a large marble (about 1 tblspn dough per cookie). Place dough onto ungreased baking tray and flatten dough balls with palm.  Bake for 7- 10 mins. (Almond meal tends to brown fairly quickly, so it’s best to make these small so you don’t end up with a burnt outside and undercooked inside)

Flourless Vanilla Thyme Loaf and My Friend Lil

It’s been a few weeks since I have posted any new recipes. I usually cook and shoot over the weekend, and last weekend, our apartment was a flooded watery mess. Three times! It wasn’t even close to the same impact as Sandy, and I’m not complaining. In fact, it made me feel oddly closer to home, and perhaps prepared me only slightly for what I will see when I visit NYC at the start of next year.

I wanted to complain while trying to contain the water flow in the apartment though. My back was hurting, the floor was looking more warped by the second, everyone was arguing about where the water was coming from and the most effective way to stop it… But I found my strategy early on. Just get into a bailing rythm, and channel my friend Lili.

My friend Lili (Olivia) has an insane work ethic, and she never bails (no pun intended). She also happens to be the most talented pastry chef I know. She can do everything from amazing novelty cakes to simple, delicious, down-home treats. If you’re lucky, you will taste one of her legendary Oaties– a cookie that, before Lili, was a myth no one could succesfully make into a reality.  Since she moved to Barcelona a few months ago, the time difference and our work schedules have made it virtually impossible for us to skype, but I wanted to keep channeling Lil! So after the floods had passed and a new weekend arrived, I brought some Lili inspired ideas to the kitchen.

She makes an amazing Vanilla Thyme Loaf, and I decided to use her brilliant flavor combo in a flourless version. The thyme and vanilla are subtle–the thyme, like the vanilla, acts as an essence–and after a hectic few weeks, the flavors are also calming and comforting. This flourless version is super moist and it’s great with tea or coffee. I shamelessly smear butter over a slice and have it with my morning tea.

Flourless Vanilla Thyme Loaf

(Adapted from Olivia Figel’s Vanilla Thyme Loaf)

  • 2 1/2 cups almond meal*
  • 2 tblspn coconut flour*
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup melted butter, cooled to room temp
  • 1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 tspn chopped fresh thyme leaves

* You can find almond meal and coconut flour at health food stores. In Brisbane, a lot of the big supermarkets are also starting to carry them. Coconut flour is just very finely ground coconut. I usually make my almond meal at home by grinding raw almonds finely in a small food processor or bar mix.

1. Preheat oven to 350 F /175 C, and butter a loaf pan (I use 8.5 by 4.5 by 2.5 inches).

2. In a medium bowl, mix first five ingredients.

3. In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add honey, butter, and vanilla extract and mix well. Add egg mixture and thyme to dry ingredients, and mix until well combined, making sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl.

4. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Cover the loaf pan with foil and bake for another 35 to 45 minutes. The loaf is ready when a toothpick comes out clean and the edges of the cake are firm and center has some resistance.