Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Going Nuts


Again, I am back from the kitchen and this time I am incredibly satisfied! It is time for a sweet treat. In Austria vegans don't find many sweet options in the supermarket. Manner Schnitten, Oreo cookies, that's about it. So I guess I can say vegans in Austria depend on good recipes to satisfy their sweet crawings. The "nut triangles" recipe was the first recipe I tried from Attila Hildmann's book "Vegan for Fit".

The recipe is simple. You probably have the ingredients at home 24/7. Well, I do. ;-)

Sliced almonds, chopped walnuts, sugar, chocolate.

I did this! And it took less then 15 minutes. 

Nut Triangles  
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup sugar (Attila uses a little more sugar, I prefer them on the nuttier side)
100gr semi-sweet chocolate, melted

Carefully roast half a cup of sliced almonds in a non-stick pan. Remove them from the pan as soon as they turn slightly brown and melt 1 cup of sugar in the same non-stick pan.

As soon as the sugar caramelizes add 1/2 cup of almonds and 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts.

Stir the nuts and the sugar and make sure all the nuts are properly coated on small heat. This will take no longer than 1-2 minutes.

Spread it mixture on a baking sheet and flatten it with a Tablespoon. 

It cools and hardenes fast, so you better be quick.

The steps above went so fast, I had no time to take photos. Also I have big respect when it comes to hot sugar, some of the most dangerous hot stuffs you can find in your kitchen. So be careful when you handle the hot sugar!

Cut the "sugarnutboard" into triangles. Use a steel knife. I ceramics knife might will break.
Now that everything is layed out nicely, I can take photos, finally!

This is what the naked triangles look like.
At this point you are good to go. The triangles are incredibly tasty. The caramelized sugar and browned almonds add  a nice smokey flavour.

 This goes so fast. Yesterday evening I made them while I let the tea steep. 5 Minutes!
I stand in awe and look down on the triangles. I did this? Wow. I am impressed. It was so easy!

Don't worry of the tools are messed up with the hardened sugar. Let them sit in water and the sugar will dissolve without any ellbow grease.

They are not as dangarous to your teeth as it may look.

For the chocolate coating melt 100gr of semi sweet chocolat (the chocolate pot is inside a water pot, never put chocolate straight on the oven!):
Dipp the triangles in the melted chocolate 
You understand why I did not take any photos during that process
 Et voila:

I also made them square-shaped and one I broke them by hand into irregular pieces.

As the names says, these triangles made of nuts and sugar (and chocolate, if you like) probably convice anyone within a second, how delicious the vegan lifestyle is. I write "and chocolate, if you like" - that's the "tune" of Attila's books: the recipes are meant to please YOU. You are invited to change them to they meet your standards/preferences. You might say "Oh, this is not big news". Maybe it isn't. Nevertheless I smile when I read quotes in the book which go like this:

I leave it up to you to judge how healthy this treat is. One thing I know for sure: These nut triangles are absolutely satisfying in every way!


Monday, 12 May 2014

Our Pets

We don't own any pets, but ... we feed our new friends, the great tits.

During the past 5 weeks we grew very fond of each other.

A lot has changed ever since I brought home the first box of flour worms.

If you would have told me back then, that I would happily pick worms by hand, to put them on my hand, I would have screamed and shoutet "no way! that's so gross!"

5 weeks later I await the birds, crawly worms in my hand.

It is amazing, how little time it takes to get used to gross worms and how fast you learn to understand the birds' sounds.

one goes like this:
"hello, good morning. are you ready to feed me with your yummy worms?"

 another one goes like this:
"ok, so I finished the worms. but honestly, I am still hungry. would it be a bad idea to get some more?"

 and another sounds is really demanding and tells us:
 "hello?! are you serious. where are the worms. quick!

The following photo content is not 100% worm free, so in case worms gross you out, please narrow your eyes to minimize the visual impact.

You can imagine we have plenty of fresh air in the appartment, thanks to open windows.


I like how the white feathers touch the eye at the bottom of the eye. The other bird has dark feathers all around the eyes. I distinguish them by their eyes. 

Sunday morning. The bird is always ready.
 Sunday afternoon, time for a small chat.

I wonder how busy I'm going to be as soon as the young breed is ready to leave the nest. I can imagine their parents know where to guide them.

The carton box got replaced by a plastic box I can remove and clean every other day but it seems the bird prefers my warm hand.
<3 br="">

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Vegan and Fit


During the week, after an evening run, I love to treat myself with a soup. You probably know how to cook a lentil soup. I have done it before.

Nevertheless I will present a recipe that probably adds some inspiration to your cooking routines. A few spices and herbs transform any decent soup into a delicious dish.

It is never too late to cook a delicious red lentil soup!

Some might remember my very successfull change from an omnivore diet to a vegan diet. Earlier this year I checked my blood count and the numbers were better than ever before! It must have been around November 2012, when I came across Attila Hildmann's cookbook "Vegan for Fit". Attila Hildman became best known for his vegan Spaghetti Bolognese. His recipe went viral in 2012! One and a half years later and I still come back to his recipes.

This May he will be touring the USA, promoting the English editions of his bestsellers "Vegan for Fit" and "Vegan for Fun". The publisher asked bloggers, if they would like to write about the books. I did not hesitate to ask and a few days later the books arrived in my mail. Thank you!
I plan to post a few recipes. Some of them became classics over the last 2 years, others are new to me.
I start with a recipe from "Vegan for Fit", because I already know the book from a friend. I was invited to add some stains on the pages in my kitchen in 2012 :-) And of course it does not hurt to promote a recipe which supports weight loss in spring, no?

Red Lentil Soup
(source: "Vegan for Fit" by Attila Hildman)

1 white onion (I take whatever onion I have at my hands)
1 garlic clove
1 carrot (approx. 110gr / 4oz)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cups red lentils (150gr)
4 sun-dried tomatoes in oil (sometimes I use dry tomatoes and soak them in warm water with a sprizz of vinegar)
1 tablespoon white almond butter (100% peeled almonds, no salt, no suger, no oil added)
1 teaspoon agave syrup (you probably don't "need" the sweetener)

spicy pesto to add before serving:
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 bunch basil*
1/4 bunch oregano*
1/2 chilli pepper (I substitute fresh chili with cayenne pepper)
1/2 cup hazelnuts (40gr)
2 tablespoons hazelnut oil (I don't have this at home, not yet ;-))

* I only have dried basil and dried oregano at home. Which is sad, but not too bad, because the soup will be nice and tasty, even when you leave out some of the ingredients. I add dried oregano and basil already with the lentils and let them cook. Turns out nice!

This is all it takes for the substance of the soup:
I placed the lemon on the cutting board, because it looks nice. 
The truth is, you don't cook the lemon, but all the veggies! Two small onions make up for one.

 This crew adds the flavour.

You chop the veggies and heat 3 Tablespoons of olive oil in a pot.

Don't be shocked surprised: the recipes come with a lot of olive oil. Veggies alone provide only little energy. Plus: the fat amplifies the flavour. Where there is fat, there is taste. :-)

To those of you, who fear they might gain weight, when they use 3 tablespoons of olive oil: I can calm you. I lost more than 8 pounds. It isn't the oil that makes you fat. If you prefer less oil, do so. I for myself am obviously well advised to eat the oil.

Add the veggies as soon as the oil is hot and stir for 3 minutes. 

Heat 3 3/4 cups (900ml) of water in a kettle.
Add the lentils and the hot water to the veggies and cook it with a lid on the pot for 8 minutes.

Heat: high!

Now it's time to prepare the "pesto": 

Roast the hazelnuts, but be careful: you don't want them to burn!
As soon as they cooled down, you can chop them. It is amazing, how easily they peel, once you have roasted them.
Chop 3 of the 4 sundried tomatoes

Squeeze the lemon and mix it in a bowl, set aside.
Looks akward, tastes fresh and intense, just what a lentil soup needs! I did not add all the hazelnuts, approx. the half of 1/3 cup.

While the lentils are cooking, we have plenty of time at our hands to washt hose dirty dishes from earlier today.

Don't meditate too long at the sink, because the lentils are ready!

I taste the lentils and the carrots, to see if they ready to be puréed.

Before puréeing, I add
- one tablespoon of almond butter
- 1 sundried tomatoe
- the agave syrup
  ... to the soup.

1 tablespoon is enough! This is more than a tablespoon.
I was stirring the almond butter from the bottom of the jar, where it is usually quite solid and I wanted to show you what the product looks like.

One minute with the hand blender - and the soup is ready to be served.

Did you notice it?
I used no stock cube, no nutritional yeast or any other highyl processed flavour enhancers, just olive oil and veggies.  Even when you skip the pesto and serve the soup just like it is, you will enjoy it. The first time I cooked it, I added dry basil and oregano with the lentils and sprinkled lemon juice on top before serving. The hazelnut-lemon-basil-tomato-pesto adds a fireworks of flavours. Think of Ratatouille! (the film, not the dish) :-)

Fresh lemon helps you to get the most out of the lentils: they are s great iron source. They are also rich in protein and zinc. 

Pictured: the soup without the pesto, cooked with dry herbs 
(in the back you see the recipe with the pesto on top)
In case you have never tried vegan recipes before, I highly recommend this book. It never ceased to inspire me since 2012 when I changed to a vegan diet.

"Vegan for Fit" is more than a cookbook. It challenges you: to go vegan for 30 days. Attila's concept is simple and inviting: no one asks you to give up milk, cheese, meat and eggs forever. But you could give it a try for 30 days. This is the first part of the book. The second half introduces you to a fitness routine. The book and the challenge as such has become a huge success in Germany. I live my life on a fitness level way above average. That's why I did not focus on the fitness lessons but on the recipes.

Attila Hildmann appearance on TV shows played a big role in his success, because he is ... amazing. No matter how agressive the other parties address him, he stays calm and very reaxed. Imagine you being attacked by the poulrty industry, the milk lobby, the meat industry plus some health experts who preach how unhealthy a vegan diet is. In the middle of this setting Attila expresses his point of view and manages to be heard, smiling, but never arrogant.

His initial motivation for a vegan lifestyle was to gain a healthier body. He eats vegan, but wears leather. When someone asks me, if I am vegan, I answer "I eat vegan", because I also wear and buy animal products, f.e. "icebreaker" merino wool underwear. People who live a 100% vegan life criticise Attila for wearing leather shoes. The strict vegans say he is a very bad role model.

How bad can a rolemodel be, when thousends and hundres of thousands vegan dishes have been cooked in Germany, Austria and Switzerland thanks ot the books he wrote?
Before him, no other person was able to get people to change their habits and leave their comfort zone - which is what you will do, when you change your habits.

The book "Vegan for Fit" focusses on health aspects, whereas "Vegan for Fun" ....  well, see for yourself!
These sweet triangles deserve a whole posting for themselves.

Mr Paula often said "Without Attila's recipes it would not have been possible". This might sound really pathetic, but it is the truth. Attila's books not only provide recipes, but also work as a coaching.  Attila did experience the same difficulties everybody else who goes vegan will experience: in the Restaurant, at your friends' dinner party, while being on a road trip ...  the books offer solutions. The reason why those solutions work, is simple: because they are simple.
Attila does not fancy fake meat nor highly processed foods. Tofu and Oatmilk are probably some of the most processed ingredients you will find among the ingredients. When you visit the campus-cafeteria, bring some nuts with you. They add nice flavours and nutritionsto your salad. Because salad is very likely to be the only vegan dish you will find in the cafeteria.

I like to end with a focus on one of the ingredients, which caused a lot of discussions.  People critisise Attila for choosing expensive ingredients, such as almond butter. Almond butter is made of pure almonds and substitutes cream.
One jar goes a long way. I remember how many packages of cheese, ham, cream and joghurt often ended in the waste, because I had bought way more than I actually needed and in the end the food went bad.

Yes, one big jar of almond butter is not cheap. Approx. 16 EUR. But I can not imagine a better way of investing my money and in the long run I am spending less money, because I throw away 0% of the groceries I am buying now. And it will last for some time.

Those of you, who taste this product for the first time: it might take time to get used to the taste.
Years before I went vegan I did buy a jar and I did not know what to do with it. I did not like the taste at all and I lacked ideas what to do with it. I had no idea how nicely it would work as a substitute for cream in any hot dish.
Over time my taste changed. Today I even spread the almond butter on my bread for breakfast. Maybe I am more health concsious and want to like those foods that are good for my health? I don't know.
Maybe you like to start off with a small jar, half the size of my jar, in case you don't like it at all.

In case you wonder why I praise the work of Attila Hildmann so much: try the recipe and you will understand! 


PS: where have I been?
I have not been only a lot, because this fellow has been keeping me my right hand very, very busy:

The kitchen window offers the best view and attracts the birds and vice versa *sigh*
.... which is convenient, since I've been spending a lot of time in the kitchen recently!