Banana walnut bread {gluten free, vegan, sugar free}

 

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 Today was a crazy day.

You know, those days when you plan to do this one thing and be finished by 10 am and then life gets in the way and suddenly it’s 10 pm and the one little thing is still lingering in your to do list and you could almost swear that it’s giving you the look and  saying ” Hey, weren’t you supposed to take care of me 12 hours ago?”

 Today was one of those days and this blog post is that one little thing.

 

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I had baked this banana bread early in the morning, and let it to cool down while I prepared my studio. I don’t know whether I had mentioned this before, but I have a mobile studio, that, due to lack of space, I set up here and there so it takes a while and a few trips back and forth to the kitchen until everything is quite like I like it. So today, I followed my routine and when  I was just getting ready to start shooting, the phone started ringing, someone knocked at the door, the cat jumped on the table, the kids had a fight…and a 15 minutes photo shoot took 2 hours.

It’s life, it happens.

I took the pictures. I downloaded them to my computer.I edited them.

And then my website crashed.

I called the host, I tried to access it a million times, I wrote the post in word, I checked again and again and again and nothing. Until 9pm.

 

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So, with a little bit of delay, and the patience to accept that which I cannot control, here’s the recipe!

Banana walnut bread

Ingredients: 3 tablespoons ground flax seeds, 9 tablespoons of water, 1/2 cup coconut oil, 1/4 cup vegetable milk (soy, almond, rice, oat-whichever is your favorite),  1/2 cup barley flour (or other gluten free flour), 1 tablespoon baking powder, 3 ripe bananas, 3/4 cup walnuts (coarsely chopped).

Preparation:

1)Pre-heat the oven to 180C-375 F. Grease a loaf pan and set aside.

2) Mix ground flaxseeds with water and set aside for a few minutes, to let them integrate

3) Mix seeds, oil and milk and whisk until smooth.

4) Sift flour and baking powder and add to the liquid ingredients.

5) Mash the bananas and add them to the rest of the preparation, together with the walnuts

6) Pour the dough into the loaf pan, smoothing the top with the back of a spoon, and place it in the oven for about 45 minutes (or until a stick comes out clean when inserted in the middle)

7) Remove the loaf from the oven, let it cool for 10 minutes, then invert into a wire rack for it to cool down completely.

Have you had crazy days like this? Let me know in the comments below!

 

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One more important thing before you go!

My friend Denise Duffield-Thomas of Lucky Bitch has just released a crazy mega bundle of her newest manifesting tools.

Denise is a money coach, and she is amazing. I bought her book, Get Rich Lucky Bitch last January and I had so many A-HA moments while reading it that I enrolled in her bootcamp too.

Her new bundle of products is absolutely great- and you know by now that I never recommend anything that I don’t absolutely love because I value your trust more than anything.

So, if you are interested, check the bundle out HERE * (Update: the bundle is not longer being offered, but you can still get these resources HERE, as well as her Lucky Bitch Money Bootcamp)

But hurry up because the sale ends midnight EST on Friday. Denise won’t be repeating this, so it’s a great chance to get a bargain!

PS: Denise also has some amazing FREE resources  that you can check out first:

The free resources require subscription (it’s totally worth it!). You can also check Denise’s blog HERE.
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Coconut Machalebi {dairy free, egg free, wheat free}

 

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My husband and I joke that we are pretty much like the couple in Tina Fey’s movie, Date Night.If you have seen the movie (which is hilarious and I totally recommend), you know that Claire and her husband Phil like routine and go every week to the same local restaurant for a date. Then, one day, they decide to spice it up and go to a posh Manhattan restaurant (without reservation), take someone else’s table and then the movie turns into a funny thriller.In our case, the action part came a few years ago, when we both worked in peacekeeping, and now we have more or less settled into a routine that we love.

Where we are 100% like the Fosters is in our restaurant routine: once we find one that we love, we rarely change, we become regulars and end up knowing the waiter’s names. Every city we  go to, we fall in love with a couple of places and become loyal customers. Back in Abidjan, our hearts belonged to Nuit de Saigon (Vietnamese cuisine), Maroush (Lebanese cuisine), and Restaurant de la Paix (also Lebanese cuisine), in Belgrade we chose Kosava and Tribecca, in Florence, Ristorante Pinolo and Open View (overlooking the Arno)  in Barcelona, Ugarit (Sirian cuisine), and here in Cyprus, we love Karvounomageiremata, Sitio and the Syrian-Arab Friendship club. I’m sure there are plenty of other great places, but these are the ones we adore.

Did you notice a trend in the list above?

Yes, we love Middle Eastern cuisine and we always find a middle eastern restaurant wherever we go.  Hoummous, tabbouleh, fatayer, fattoush, falafel…you name it, we   have probably tried and most certainly loved it. But for some reason, before coming to live in Nicosia I had never tried Middle Eastern desserts (except Baklava, of course). Then one night, we were given a complimentary Machalebi with our mint tea and  I was smitten. The texture was so soft it almost melted in my mouth, and its sweet, rose flavour was utterly delicious.

The problem was that it was made with milk and cream- and as you know, I don’t eat dairy. So I came up with my own version.

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I checked a couple of recipes, changed this, removed that, and ended up with this recipe: My coconut machalebi, made with equal parts coconut milk and coconut cream, lots of rose water and a little bit of sugar.

And the best part? It takes about 15 minutes to make so it’s ideal for those times when we don’t have loads of time, yet want to impress our guests with an unusual, exquisite dessert. It is also pretty allergy friendly because it doesn’t have dairy, eggs or wheat.

I chose coconut milk and cream because of their luscious texture, but if they are hard to find where you leave, just replace them by other non-dairy versions. In this occasion I used caster sugar so as not to affect the pearly white texture of the dessert, but if you prefer not to use refined sugar, you can use coconut sugar for a change. It will then be brownish in color, but still yummy.

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 Here’s the recipe:

Coconut Machalebi (serves 6)

Ingredients: 1 can (400 ml) coconut milk, 1 can (400 ml) coconut cream, 3/4 cup cornstarch, 1/3 cup caster sugar, 2 tablespoons rose water 4 tablespoons of pistachios, roughly chopped. For the rose syrup: 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup caster sugar, 2 tablespoons of rose water.

Preparation:

1) In a bowl, mix coconut milk and cornstarch until the latter dissolves. Set apart.

2) Put the coconut cream and sugar in a saucepan and bring it to the boil, then reduce heat to minimum and let it simmer until the sugar is completely dissolved, stirring constantly to prevent the sugar from caramelizing at the bottom.

3) Once the sugar has dissolved, add the coconut milk and cornstarch, and the rose water and let the preparation simmer until it starts to thicken, stirring with a whisk.

4) Once the preparation starts to thicken, remove from the heat and whisk vigorously to ensure a smooth, silky texture.This will also allow the preparation to cool down a little bit.

5) Pour the preparation into ramequins or small bowls, add a teaspoon of chopped pistachios, cover with foil and let chill in the refrigerator while you prepare the rose syrup.

6) Prepare the syrup: Put water and sugar in a saucepan and bring it to the boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add the rose water and let the syrup cool.

7) Remove the machalebi from the refrigerator, add 2 or 3 tablespoons of rose syrup to each ramequin and serve.

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 Do you have a favorite cuisine? Let me know in the comments below!

Finding the way back to (a new) normal + Vegan & refined sugar free apple pie

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Good evening dear friends!

It’s been such a long, long time since I last visited this, my happy place, since I last talked to you, my dear friends. Summer came and went and so did most of Autumn (my favorite season!), and it is only now that the advent is almost upon us that our lives have regained some sort of normality, of calm and that I begin to find the way back to the words I have been wanting to write for a while.

So here I am, listening to The Piano, which is the soundtrack with which I have written every post of this blog, and thinking about the roller coaster of emotions that have been the last few months (pardon the cliché).

You see, On the 1st week of October: 1) We pulled Luka and Zoe out of their new school, worried about the high levels of stress that they were enduring and, advised by a psychologist,  decided to home school them (insert worry, doubts and sadness), 2) We lost our babysitter ( a big deal for expats like us, trust me) and 3)  I started working, from home, on the most amazing project I could have ever dreamed (insert jumps of joy and huge smiles).  Our daily lives, and the plans we had for the immediate future, as you can imagine, changed pretty much overnight, and it has taken a while for all of us to re adjust and find the calm and quiet of a new normal.

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During all this time there were many occasions in which I sat at the computer with the intention to type a new blog post, only to be met by the most atrocious writer’s block. It seemed as though I had run out of words or, rather, as if I had too many words waiting to be said,  too many raw emotions inside of me battling to be put on paper first.  Should I talk to you about the sadness and worry for our children’s well being that had haunted us during September, or should I talk about the relief we found when, unexpectedly and surprisingly, we decided to home school them? And how to discuss the joy, hope and personal fulfillment that  the new project I am working on had brought into my life? How could I piece those feelings together, in a blog post, or two, or three, when I was still dazed myself by all that had occurred?

I couldn’t.

And the more I thought about it, the more daunting the task seemed. As days and then weeks passed by, this first blog post acquired mythical proportions and it became more and more difficult to write.

Until this week, when  I realized I didn’t have to do any of this: that I can  take my time to write about it all in greater detail when the words come to me  in their own time, and that I could just come back here being me, the confused, worried, joyful, warm and simply  happy me that I have always been. And that I could just say hello to you again, bring you a piece of pie, and ask you (like old friends do):

How have you been, my dears, during all this time? 

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And speaking of pie, here’s the recipe I promised:

 

Vegan & refined sugar free apple pie

Ingredients: For the crust:400 grs all purpose flour, 200 grs margarine, cold (the best quality you can find, preferably from the health food store), 2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar, 1/4 cup very cold water. For the filling: 2 big Granny Smith apples, 3 tablespoons cornstarch, dissolved in cold water, 7 tablespoons coconut palm sugar, 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon.

Preparation:

1) Make the crust: Put flour, sugar and margarine in the food processor. Pulse until the flour reaches a sand-like consistency. Add water while the processor runs, until the dough separates from the bowl. Wrap the dough in foil and let it rest in the refrigerator for one hour. Note:  If you don’t have a food processor, use two knives to incorporate flour, sugar and margarine.

2) After one hour, pre heat the oven to 180 C/ 350 F. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide it in two. Roll one half and cover the botton of a pie dish with it.

3) Prepare the filling: Peel and finely slice the apples and put them in the pie dish. Mix the dissolved cornstarch, coconut sugar and cinnamon and pour it evenly over the apples, to coat. Cover the dish with the other half of dough and bring it to the oven. Bake until the crust is golden. Serve warm and, if you are feeling decadent, accompanied by a scoop of good quality vanilla bean ice cream.

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My favorite homemade muesli recipe

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Last Monday, after I finished writing the last post and started taking notes on the one I had planned for today, I realized that it had been over a month since the last time I had posted a recipe! A month?! How could this be?!

It’s true that the ebook of vegetarian, detox friendly, gluten free, sugar free, dairy free and egg free summer recipes had been released in the meantime, but still…unacceptable! 😉

So I decided to remedy this and, for this reason, I am bringing you today my favorite homemade muesli recipe, and adding possible variations to suit you in case you have any food allergies or intolerances- on in case you just don’t like some of the ingredients.

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This muesli, together with granola, is one of my favorite breakfast options. It is, not only lush, but also really healthy and it gives me long lasting energy. During school times, when I know I will be in a rush, I make big batches of it and store them in glass jars, so that i just need to put a few spoons in a bowl, pour some vegetable milk over it, let it sit for a few minutes while I prepare my children’s breakfast or boil the water for chamomille tea, and it’s ready!

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Ready to try it? Here it goes

 

HOMEMADE MUESLI RECIPE

Ingredients: 3 tablespoons oats, 1 teaspoon chia seeds, 1 teaspoon raw cocoa nibs, 1 tablespoon hazelnuts, 1 teaspoon sunflower seeds, 1 cup vegetable milk,  1 tablespoon raisins, 1/2 cup fresh fruits to top it all.

Preparation: Put the oats in a bowl, add the seeds and nuts and pour the milk over them. Let it sit for a few minutes (or overnight, covered, in the refrigerator if you like the oats to be really soft), add the raisins and fresh fruits and enjoy!

Variations:

1) You may replace hazelnuts for any other nut (almonds, walnuts, pecans, brazil, whichever you prefer)

2) If you can’t eat nuts, add another seed (such as pumpkin seeds, for example)

3) If you can’t eat oats, you may replace them by millet, rice  or quinoa flakes.

4) If you have a gluten allergy or intolerance, use gluten free oats or make the replacements above

5) You can replace raisins by any dried fruits, such as dried cranberries, goji berries, or dried apricots, for example.

6) You may omit the raw cocoa nibs- I love their crunchy bitterness but this is a matter of taste, of course.

7) In Summer I like to use frozen fruits to top the muesli, because it adds freshness to it-hence the frost present in the picture’s raspberries. This is a matter of choice. Chose whatever you prefer, or have on hand!

 

 

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Now it’s your turn: what do you generally have for breakfast? have you ever made muesli before? Please share in the comments below!

Nugaton, my most iconic dessert

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Last Wednesday, May 29th,  was my 37th birthday and the blog’s second and we celebrated both with nugaton.

Nugaton is, for those who know me from my days in Argentina, my most iconic dessert. This is the one dessert that was never missing in our birthdays and the only cake my brother still wants for his. Nugaton is the dessert I am always asked to prepare when I’m  invited to a party back home, and the one that my friends most looked forward to eating whenever I  entertained.

It is not, however, a family recipe. Truth be told, the original recipe appeared in a box of Quaker Oats in Argentina, in the ’70s. It quickly popularized because it was ideal for making in a whim, and kids loved it. The original recipe, however, has been modified countless times, as it normally happens in family kitchens, where ingredients and proportions are altered depending on what the person cooking has on hand, or to each family’s taste.

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The beauty of Nugaton is not only that it is very simple to make, doesn’t require an oven and can be shaped in any way one wants, but also that the ingredients are few and, generally speaking, easy to find. Because of this, I have been able to make it pretty much everywhere I have lived.  Those who know me  from Córdoba, New York, Québec, Fuerteventura, Belgrade, Daoukro and Abidjan have all had a taste of this childhood classic and have all loved it.

Now it’s your turn  to do it and to let me know how you like it!

 

The most important part of making nugaton is to get the chocolate oat paste right. For many years, I was unable to get consistent results because, ahem, I had never measured the ingredients (you can see the original page of my recipe notebook HERE and laugh at the lack of precision). I knew how nugaton was supposed to turn out and I just kept adding this and that, and maybe a little more of that other thing  until I reached the desired result. This was fine for me, but it made it impossible to share the recipe with anyone else, as you can imagine!

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This time, because I was going to share the recipe with you, I wanted it to be precised, so I measured everything and I am confident that you will be able to enjoy a delicious home made nugaton, that will look and taste the same as mine does- or even better!

Now, just one important recommendation before I leave you with the recipe: try to use ingredients that are the best quality possible. When a recipe uses very few ingredients, as in this case, each of them affects the final taste, so the better the quality, the better the results. And even though I don’t normally make specific brand recommendations, in this case I will because, in my experience, it makes a difference. So there it goes: use Quaker oats when making it. Trust me on this one!

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You will notice that, in this recipe, I use 70% chocolate and may wonder if it can be made with cocoa, and the answer is yes, it can. In fact, my mum makes it cocoa most of the time, and I will give you the quantities for it too. You can also use half chocolate and half cocoa. And even though the original recipe uses butter, if you, like me, cannot eat dairy, it can be replaced by dairy-free margarine. The same goes for milk: the original recipe calls for cow’s milk, but I normally replace by oat, almond or hazelnut ones that go really great with this dessert.

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Here is the recipe:

 Nugaton

Ingredients: 300 grs butter or dairy-free margarine , 350 grs dark chocolate (70%) or 100 grs dark chocolate + 3/4 cup cocoa, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 350 grs sugar, 500 grs oats, 200 ml milk (I use oat, almond or hazelnut milk),  two packs of cream crackers.

Preparation: 

1) Melt butter/margarine and chocolate together in a saucepan

2) Put the oats and sugar in a big saucepan and mix well.

3) Pour the margarine/chocolate sauce over the oats and mix well. At this time, you will notice that it feels like the sauce is not enough to coat  the oats. Don’t worry, keep mixing.

4) Bring the mixture to slow heat and continue stirring all the time. Add milk in small doses, mixing very well after each addition. After a few minutes, you will notice that the oats start to cook,and the paste becomes easier to work with. When this happens, mix one more time, remove from the heat and continue stirring for a couple of minutes.

5) Put a little bit of paste at the base of the plate where you will present your nugaton, so that the crackers stay in place. Add one layer of crackers and then put a couple of tablespoons of nugaton paste on top. Spread the paste well all over the top, using a spatula.

6) Continue layering crackers and paste until you have approximately 6 tablespoons of paste left. When this happens, put the last layer of crackers and then pour all the remaining paste on top. Working with a spatula, spread and smooth the paste all along the top and sides of the cake, as you would with any frosting. Decorate as desired and put it in the refrigerator until one hour before serving.

 

What is your most iconic dessert, the one that people always ask you to do over and over again?

Please, share with me in the comments below!

 

 

A delicious ice cream sandwich recipe (Gluten free & Dairy Free)

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Summer is for ice cream, don’t you think? And how about ice cream sandwiches, aren’t they yumminess to the chore? Don’t they bring memories of  childhood, leisurely days , friends and bikes,  and ice creams trucks in the park? I thought so too, and this is why I decided to bring you a delicious ice cream sandwich recipe, that is also gluten free and dairy free, for you to enjoy like you used to when you were a child.

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These ice cream sandwiches are made of delicious gluten free and dairy free chocolate chip cookiesand vegan chocolate ice cream (dairy free and egg free)  because I believe that food allergies shouldn’t stop us from eating tasty treats.Ice-cream-sandwiches-wm

The cookies were adapted from a shortbread cookie  recipe by  Aran Goyoaga that appears in her book Small Plates and Sweet TreatsI modified the flour combination that she uses because I didn’t have the same ones, and I added big chunks of chocolate that add a little crunchiness to the sandwiches.

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Do you want the recipe? Here it is:

Gluten free and dairy free ice cream sandwich recipe

 

1) Make the Gluten free & Dairy Free chocolate chunks cookies

Ingredients: 110 grs of vegan margarine, 1 cup/200 grs caster sugar, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 1 medium size egg, 1/2 cup cornstarch, 1 cup/115 grs almond flour (I used processed almonds), 1 1/4 cup/ 175 grs rice flour (plus a little bit more to dust the counter), 1/2 teaspoon salt, 100 grs chocolate (70%), cut in chunks, or chocolate chip cookies.

Preparation: 

1) Beat margarine and sugar for 2 minutes.  It is very important not to overbeat margarine or the cookies will turn out oily, so just incorporate both ingredients well and make sure the resulting cream has some fluffiness but don’t continue further than that.

2) Scrape the sides of the bowl, add vanilla and eggs and beat well, until fully incorporated.

3) In a different bowl, mix the dry ingredients and add them to the margarine cream in three times, mixing well and scraping the sides of the bowl after every addition. Again, don’t over mix or the dough will be too soft. Add the chocolate chunks or chips and incorporate them into the dough.

4) Wrap the foil in plastic and put it in the refrigerator for one hour. These cookies freeze very well, so if you can make the dough ahead of time, freeze it and bake the cookies at a later date.

5) Dust the counter with rice flour, remove the dough from the refrigerator, extend it with a rolling pin and cut the cookies with the desired shape. I made medium size flowers, but you could also try with a simple circle or square cookie cutter.

6) Place the cookies on a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake for 10-15 minutes, until barely golden on top. Remove from the oven and let them cool down.

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2) Make the Chocolate coconut ice cream

Ingredients: 2 cans of 400 ml of coconut milk, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup cocoa

Preparation: 

1) Put all the ingredients in a saucepan, and bring to the heat, stirring all the time with a wooden spoon until it slightly thickens (very slightly). This will help dissolve well all pieces of coconut and cocoa and ensure that the ice cream turns out smooth.

2) Place the chocolate coconut milk in a container with a lid and put it in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours

3) Remove the milk from the refrigerator, and churn it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. I use the KitchenAid ice cream attachment, with which it takes 15/20 minutes for the ice cream to be ready.

4) Once the ice cream is ready, place it in the freezer for 2 hours for it to reach scoop consistency.

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3) Assemble the ice cream sandwiches

1) Put a scoop of ice cream between two cookies, and place the sandwiches on a tray

2) Place the tray in the freezer until the ice cream hardens (or it will melt too soon!).

3) Serve, or store in the freezer in an airtight container.

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