Quick, simple, healthy breakfast ideas

I used to always purchase commercial brand cereals for breakfast. It was simple, quick and convenient. However, the more I cook, the more conscious I am about the ingredients in my food. Now, I never buy boxed cereal and try to diversify my morning plate with some delicious and healthy breakfast alternatives. It’s great to know the ingredients that go into my morning breakfast are generally all natural and good for me. The below breakfast alternatives are rich in protein and fiber, packed with vitamins and very fresh. These ideas take anywhere from 3 – 15 minutes.

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What are some of your favorite breakfast options?

Recipe Share: Adapted Chickpea Burgers

This week’s recipe was taken from the blog, Take a Bite out of Life.

I stumbled across this blog while searching for a recipe with chickpeas. I’m happy I did, because the blogger not only has some delicious cake recipes, but also has great recipes for those with dietary restrictions. Definitely worth checking her out.

Her chickpea burger recipe has a wonderful spicy kick to it. It’s a delicious and healthy burger alternative that’s packed with protein. It’s also low in fat and cholesterol. Serve warm with lots of delicious herbed yogurt (plain yogurt mixed with your favorite herbs), your favorite salad or veggies mixture, pita bread and little squeeze of fresh lemon.

You can find the recipe here.

The only things I did differently:

  • Instead of oats – I used 1/4  c of corn flour (ground maize)
  • I omitted the oregano, flaxseed, curry powder and siracha sauce instead I used instead: salt, pepper, cumin and paprika
  • I added one egg and 2 TBSP of fresh lemon juice
  • I added freshly chopped chives (1 tsp), parsley (1TBSP) and basil (1tsp)
  • Instead of baking, I pan grilled each burger on each side for 6-8 minutes .  (The following day, I baked falafels with the leftover mixture and it was yummy, so both methods work well).

My Favorite Pasta Salad Ever!

Yesterday I had a small 4th of July dinner, per usual tradition. For dinner, I served rump steak cuts marinated in balsamic vinegar and molasses, summer squash sautéed with onions and pasta salad, followed by a dessert of red velvet cake, served with summer berries. Meat has slowly worked its way back into my life after a month without it.

Back to the menu, I must say, the pasta salad was really the true star of the show. The meat and zucchini– only backup dancers. This salad is so refreshing and light. It’s chock full of delicious flavor and has a light citrus taste. This morning I actually contemplated eating it for breakfast with a slice of red velvet, but then realized that would leave me without lunch.

This recipe is really simple to make, hope you enjoy it. And for those back home, hope you had a fun 4th!

 

What you need.

  • 200 grams / app. 1/2 pound of pasta (I used whole wheat fussili)
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1/2 of a bell pepper, diced
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1/4 of a red onion, minced
  • juice from half a lemon
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/8 – 1/4 c of mayonnaise
  • 1/4 tsp of chives, chopped
  • 1 TBSP of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 c of shredded parmesan
  • paprika, sea salt and pepper, to taste

 

  1. Boil pasta according to directions, strain, and run under cold water until cool.
  2. Place pasta, avocado, peppers, tomatoes, onions, carrots, in a bowl. Pour lemon juice on top and gently mix.
  3. Mix garlic and mayonnaise in a separate bowl. Add to salad and gently mix, evenly distributing sauce.
  4. Mix in fresh herbs and cheese, then season to taste.
  5. Place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

 

 

 

Summer Strawberry Cake

May was an unusually cold month. I’m so happy the weather has warmed up. The temperatures have been in the 90’s F/ 30’s C for the past week. Call me crazy, but I’ll take a sweltering heat over blustery frost any day. This week, in an attempt to cool off, the hubs and I headed down to the swimming pool and did a couple of laps and splashed around. Something about being in water always makes me insanely hungry, even if I just splash around in the pool. So when we arrived home, my husband whipped up a delish and quick meal of whole-wheat and quinoa pasta with sautéed mushrooms, lemon, onions and cream. It was so good and we were so starved that no pictures were taken.

After dinner, we went outside to sit on the terrace. While outside, we started to smell the most delicious aroma of baked apple pie. This made me crave baked goods and I couldn’t shake the urge to bake. What else is any sane person supposed to do on one of the hottest days of summer, but crank up the oven? I quickly found a seasonal dessert recipe on Smitten Kitchen and off I went, stirring, mixing and pouring, to make this beauty (pictured below). So worth it!

If you love strawberries as well as the crunchy and buttery taste of shortbread cookies, then this recipe’s for you. It’s essentially a large shortbread cook with strawberry jam. The original recipe calls for way more strawberries than I had on hand. I was still rather pleased with the results.

What you need.

  • 12 – 15 Strawberries (or double it for strawberry packed goodness), stem removed, halved
  • 6 tbsp (85 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

How you make it.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C) and butter a 9 inch (spring-form) round baking dish.
  2. Cream butter and sugar, add in egg, vanilla and milk.
  3. Mix dry ingredients and add them into batter.
  4. Pour mixture in prepared dish.
  5. Place strawberries cut-side down on top of the batter (they’ll sink in as they bake)
  6. Bake 10 minutes and then reduce heat to 325 (160 C), bake another 45 – 55 min. Allow to cool on a wire rack before serving.

Serve with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or au naturale. I think I’ll try this with blueberries and strawberries the second time around. Enjoy!

Sourdough Pizza

I think I’ve died and gone to pizza dough heaven. Recently, I tried my hand at making sourdough pizza. The rise time is longer than a recipe using commercial yeast, but I think the process is actually easier. The dough browned beautifully and had an incredible crunch and slightly acidic taste.

You can start this dough in the morning and by the time you return home in the evening, most of the work will already be done.

The below recipe makes enough for two thin crust pizzas

What you need.

  • 3 c flour
  • 4 TBSP starter
  • 3/4 c luke warm water
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 TBSP honey
  • 1 TBSP olive oil

How you make it.

  1. In a cup or bowl, mix water and starter, until the starter dissolves. Add honey and mix well.
  2. In a separate bowl mix flour and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the starter mixture and oil. Mix well, use a wooden spoon (and your hands) to incorporate all the ingredients until you have what resembles a messy dough ball.
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, place it in a warm area of the house and let it rise 10 – 12 hours, it should double in size.
  4. After the dough has risen, knead it for about 5 – 10 minutes, cover with the plastic wrap and let it rest for 15 minutes.
  5. Preheat your oven to the highest setting.
  6. Split the dough in half you can freeze one, if you don’t plan on making both. Roll out the dough and top with your ingredients of choice. I used mozzarella, salmon, chives, and tomato sauce and mushrooms.
  7. Bake the pizza for 7-10 minutes or until golden brown.

Enjoy!

Simple Roasted Curry-Flavored Okra

Who’s looking forward to the next couple of days off? Me! Last week was the kind of week, where I managed to get just enough sleep to stay sane, woke up, dashed in and out of the shower, grabbed some fruit and ran from train to work and class. I’d come home in the evening to a pile of clothes that eventually turned into a mountain and just pop some type of vegetable in the oven and hope for the best. I only have a cat, so chapeau and lots of respect to those with children, I don’t know how you juggle it all!

Any how, on my way home from teaching last week, I had a bit of time until my train arrived, so I popped into an African grocer near the train station. At the grocer’s I found okra, a staple vegetable from my childhood. I haven’t had it in years! Back then, I ate it battered and fried– no surprise there, what isn’t battered and fried in Alabama, hehehe! Anyway, this was one of my favorite childhood veggies.

In another attempt to just pop something in the oven and save time and stay healthy, I accidentally made the best okra I’ve ever had! It was tangy and flavorful, with a beautifully browned crunchy crust. Some people are turned off by okra because it can be a little slimy in texture. This recipe is really nice for those who avoid okra for this reason.

Roasted Curry-Flavored Okra

What you need.

  • Okra
  • Olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, curry to taste

How you make it.

  1. Wash your okra and pat it dry.
  2. Place okra in a bowl, add about 2 TBSP of olive oil (depends on how much you’re making), season with salt, pepper and curry.
  3. Roast on 425 for 15 – 20 minutes, or until browned and slightly crisp.

I served this with salad, fruits and cheese – as I was looking for a quick healthy lunch. Enjoy!

Pain au Levain/ Sourdough Bread

LONGEST POST EVER:

A couple of weeks ago, I ate dinner at a friend’s. At some point during the evening she removed a loaf of bread from the oven. It was the most lovely shade of amber. She told it was naturally leavened bread that she made using a homemade starter (culture of yeast and bacteria). Me, being the curious cook that I am, and lover of anything natural and healthy, decided to make my own starter and try my hand at sourdough bread.

I won’t go into details about the chemistry of the process, I’ll leave that to the experts and will instead put some links at the bottom of the page. I will try to walk you through my process for creating a starter or levain to bake your first fresh loaf.

Starter/Levain

What you need.

  • Patience and faith that it will work out.
  • 1/2 c or 50 grams flour: I used a mix of rye (yeast apparently loves this stuff), non bleached all-purpose and wheat flour
  • slightly less than 1/2 c or 1.2 deciliters of filtered, bottled, or *tap water

If your tap water is drinkable, use it. Many recommend bottled water, because it could contain small levels of chlorine, which inhibit yeast growth. To remove chlorine, leave a glass of water out overnight and it should evaporate.

How you cultivate it.

  1. Buy or wash out a jar with a lid, that has about 1 L or greater capacity
  2. In a bowl mix 1/2 c of flour (50 grams) and a little less than 1/2 cup of water (app. 1 deciliter). Many bloggers use a total hydration method that entails mixing equal amounts of flour and water. Using slightly less water worked better from me, it stopped the mixture from separating. This could depend on the environment you live in. It’s all about trial and error.
  3. Pour the mixture into your clean jar. Cover partly. Do not close the lid completely, as the culture of yeast will produce carbon dioxide gas as they metabolize sugars. This causes the dough to rise, which is what we want to see, however the gases also need room to escape the jar. You can partially tighten the lid or punch a few small holes in cling wrap and cover it with this instead.
  4. About 12 – 24 hours later, on days  2 – 7 (or longer), stir the mixture, get rid of half. If you use a scale and when you weigh your original ingredients, it will be easier to know precisely how much mixture to remove. Otherwise, you can eyeball the mixture or pour out 1/2 cup. Place the rest in a bowl and add in a little less than 1/2 c water stir, stir in 1/2 c flour, partially cover and let it sit overnight. Repeat every day. By days 4-7, your mixture should bubble and rise consistently, if not, continue feeding it, until it does consistently.
  5. Every other day, clean your jar out. This is important to determine, whether your starter is rising. I put a sticker on my jar at the level of the starter to confirm that it has risen.
  6. Do not use the starter until day 7 or later.

Trouble shooting:

  • If your starter is not doubling, place it on top of a warm appliance or in my case on a heated floor.
  • If you experience a layer of separation between the liquid and the starter or water on the surface, try reducing your amount of water.

Pain au levain/ Sourdough bread (1 loaf)

What you need.

For starter: a little less than 1/2 c water and 1/2 c flour

For sponge: a little less than 1 c  water and 2 c flour

For the dough: a little less than 1 c water mixed with 1 TBSP of honey, 2 c flour, 2 tsp salt

How you make it.

  1. Day 1. Starter/Levain. After your starter is established on day 7, maybe later, remove half and place it in a jar or a large bowl. Note: After your starter is established, you can use the 1/2 that you remove to make pancakes, as scraps in biscuits, pass it along to a friend, etc.
  2. Pour in water (slightly less than 1/2 c), mix, add in 1/2 c flour. Cover with cling wrap and let this mixture sit over night or 12 – 24 hours, until it has doubled in size.
  3. Day 2. Making the sponge: In a bowl, add a 1 cup of lukewarm water to your levain, mix until slushy, then add 2 c. (100 grams) flour. Cover with cling wrap and place in a warm place. Let this mixture sit 6 -8 hours or overnight.
  4. Day 3. Making the dough: In a separate  bowl, pour in 2 cups of flour. In a cup, mix water in a cup with honey (optional). Mix this in with your flour, until it forms a rough ball. Let the dough sit for about 15 minutes so the flour can absorb the water.
  5. Sprinkle 2 tsp of salt over the dough and combine this with your sour dough sponge until incorporated. Don’t be afraid to get a little messy. You could use your kitchenaid to do this, since I don’t have one I did it with a spoon and by hand. Do not knead. Shape as desired and place it in a lightly oiled baking dish and allow it to rise in an oiled bowl for 4-7 hours. If you do this in the morning, you’ll have bread for the evening.
  6. 30 minutes before baking your bread, preheat your oven to the about 440 F / 230 C. Boil about 3 cups of water and place in an ovenproof dish. Place this dish on the bottom shelf of your oven. This will help the crust turn a nice amber brown and provide a moist baking environment.
  7. Place the dough in the oven and bake for 50 minutes or until it sounds hollow when tapped. Half way through baking, reduce the temperature to about 400 F / 200 C. Allow the bread to cool on a wire rack. Try your best not to slice the bread until it’s cooled.

There are tons of creative ways to shape and form the dough. Since this was my first attempt, I wanted to start simple.

This bread tastes remarkable, slightly acidic, with a nice crunchy exterior and moist and airy inside. I would like to work on getting more air bubbles in my dough, practice makes perfect.

Please note: Store starter in glass, plastic containers or stainless steel. Clear containers make it easier to observe your starter.

I will warn you, you will become obsessed with your starter. It looks likes a creamy blob of water and flour, but somehow you will regard it as beautiful. Like me, you may come home and instead giving your husband a hug as soon as you walk in or feeding and cuddle your cat, dog, what have you not, you will run to your starter and observe it. Somehow, it will become part of your family– just be sure you don’t neglect your family members.

Another warning, making naturally, leavened bread is not a time-consuming or arduous task, the yeast and the bacteria do most of the work, you just have to mix here and there. However, it is a long process that requires a lot of patience. Especially, if you decide to make your own starter, you’ll have to wait 1 to 2 weeks until you taste the fruits of your labor. Let me tell you, it is SO worth it.

Have you made sourdough bread? Any tips/tricks, recipes you’d like to share?

Links:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/

http://eattheroses.wordpress.com/2012/08/22/sourdough-focaccia-and-what-sourdough-is-and-is-not/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sourdough

http://sourdough.com/recipes/home-bread

http://www.thefreshloaf.com/keyword/gerard-rubaud

Roasted Potato Medley

There’s one vegetable that I miss a lot from home and that’s sweet potatoes. Actually, you can find sweet potatoes in Switzerland, but the trick is finding good ones. A couple of years back on Thanksgiving, I desperately tried to recreate my Aunt Henrietta’s sweet potato pie recipe. Major fail! The potatoes at the grocery store were long, thin, frail remnants of sweet potatoes.

Today, while picking up some veggies at the grocery store I happened to come across lovely sweet potatoes– jack pot! I made one for lunch and the taste was absolutely wonderful!
I imagine this recipe would work well as a healthy alternative to fries and would complement a hearty salad or grilled meat. I just ate it as a meal and enjoyed every bite.

What you need.

  • Potato of choice,  I used Russet
  • Sweet potato
  • Carrots
  • Olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, paprika

How you make it.

  1. Preheat oven to 400 (app 200 C)
  2. Cut  thin/medium (app 1/4 in, .60cm) potato slices
  3. Cut medium slices of carrots
  4. Oil the bottom of a baking dish, places veggies on the bottom of the pan and drizzle oil on top
  5. Season slices.
  6. Bake for about 30 – 40 minutes or until roasted, golden brown and tender.

I used the grill setting on my oven, perhaps this would work nicely in a broiler as well.

Enjoy!

Crunchy Roasted Granola

Buying cereal in Switzerland is nothing like back in the States. At home, cereal can be found on its own aisle! You could probably fit 10 Swiss aisles into one US cereal aisle!

My husband once told me that when he moved to the US, he kind of panicked whenever he made his way to the cereal aisle. He’d observe what locals were buying and quickly grab something and continue with his shopping. Considering many shoppers were parents buying their kids ultra, frosted, sugar-glazed cereal — he quickly opted for another method. As an American, I guess I’d never thought about the amount of choices being overwhelming.

Actually, when I moved to Switzerland, I practically couldn’t find the cereal aisle. Well, it wasn’t really an aisle, rather a small section of an aisle with probably no more than 10 – 15 choices of cereal. Crazy as it sounds, I suddenly spent more time, trying to figure out, which cereal to select. With only a few choices, I felt the need to read the ingredient list and nutritional information on every box, to do a price comparison to figure out the most economical choice. Well, this is Switzerland and I shortly realized, economical is not part of the vocabulary here. Things are pricey! I just couldn’t justify paying 7 dollars for a tiny bag of organic granola. In the end, I walked away from my few choices, deciding not buy anything at all.

This worked out well for me, because I discovered, making my own granola was just as good, if not better than store-bought granola. Best of all, it costs a fraction of the price. Here’s my recipe for crunchy granola. You can adapt it to your liking.

What you need (feel free to double the recipe if you’re cooking for more than 2 people).

  • 3 cups of oats (not the instant kind)
  • 1 cup of chopped nuts and/or seeds of your choice (I used pecan and sunflower)
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup of molasses, maple syrup or honey (I used molasses)
  • 1 cup of raisins or dried fruits/berries of choice. Add in some chocolate chips to if you’d like.

How you make it.

  1. Preheat oven to 300 F (150 C)
  2. Place oats in a large skillet and cook on low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Throw in your seeds/nuts and cook on low heat with oats for about 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Pour into a baking dish (9×13), sprinkle with cinnamon, throw in salt, mix well
  5. Add your sweetener (i.e. honey, molasses or syrup) and mix well.
  6. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, remove and allow to cook on a wire rack.
  7. Once  your mixture cools, stir in dried fruit/berries and refrigerate in an air tight container for as long as you’d like.

Play around with the recipe and make it with the things you love. This tastes great with milk, plain yogurt or by itself. I like to make a frozen yogurt parfait: blueberries, topped with plain yogurt, topped with granola – pop it in the freezer for a few hours and enjoy!

Swiss Miss Apple Cake

The other night, my husband and I were invited to a delicious fondue dinner at our friends’ place. We were in charge of the dessert. I wanted to make something, seasonal, slightly sweet, melt-in-your-mouth moist and somewhat traditional. My husband suggested his family’s Apple Cake recipe. This recipe was handed down to him by a very special person, who  had a special talent of taking the most simple ingredients and making something amazing.

Once this cake goes into your oven, you instantly feel warm and cozy. If you enjoy the aroma of  tangy citrus and sweet apple wafting throughout your home, then this next recipe is for you. It’s ridiculously easy to make and looks beautiful!

This recipe was made using the metric system. I’ve included English measurements in parentheses.

What you need.

  • 270 grams flour (2 c flour)
  • 200 grams softened butter (1 c, 6 TBSP)
  • 270 grams sugar (1 & 1/3 c sugar)
  • 10 grams baking powder (2 tsp)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 4 eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 apples (you won’t use two whole), peeled, cored, sliced in quarters (not too crunchy)

How you make it.

  1. Preheat oven to 355 F (180 C)
  2. Butter a cake pan (about 9 inch in diameter) and flour the bottom
  3. Mix dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and salt
  4. Mix butter and sugar together until creamy
  5. Mix in eggs
  6. Add dry ingredients to your batter and gently mix them in
  7. Finally add in your lemon zest and pour into prepared baking dish.
  8. Take 5 apple quarters (keep the rest for yourself and enjoy a lovely snack) and make little slits in them.  This helps them cook faster and makes for a pretty design.
  9. Place your apples core-side down, “peel” side-up in the cake batter, so that they are lying just above the surface.
  10. Bake for about 45 minutes. If it browns too rapidly simply cover loosely with aluminum foil. Use a toothpick to test whether it’s baked thoroughly.
  11. Cool on a wire rack and enjoy!