Boosting your way into the New Year

I admit this post is long overdue. I meant to write for Christmas and share my family recipe of “Bûche de Noël”, which I know is a favorite for some of my readers. But this will have to wait until next Christmas unfortunately… You probably won’t contradict me when I’ll say that there is always a lot going on around this time of the year. Buying last minute gifts (even though I always swear to my myself this will be the last time), wrapping a mountain of presents (this takes me a lot of time because I am a perfectionist), visiting family members, cooking delicious Christmas treats…

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However, you’ll probably like to hear that my new year resolution is to be much more active on Stefinitely Yummy! Even if this is probably going to get a bit tricky at some point… (more explanation about that soon :-)). I have so many nice recipes I’d like to share!

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Does the above snow man really looks freaky to you (so says my boyfriend Kjeld)? Vote for your favorite snow man!

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Probably unlike many of you, but I don’t blame you, I have been pretty reasonable during the end-of-year celebrations. Still, I really feel an urge for food that’s good for my body and will give me the energy I need to go through this snowy Luxembourgish winter. All I feel like is fibers and vitamins. Nice fresh and colorful vegetables. I can’t get enough of them! As I thought you might probably feel the same way after the “fois gras”, turkey and Texas Taters(*) overkill, I decided to share my ultimate energy boost and feel good recipes!

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My smoothie does not contain any salad, kale or any of the other usual ingredients in healthy green smoothies but it definitely reaches its objective in terms of freshness! I have prepared my second recipe, a carrot and sweet potato soup, countless numbers of times since I discovered it two years ago. It’s got so much flavor! Finally, the salad contains some of my favorite ingredients and the way it combines sweetness, softness and crunchiness is incredible!

I wish you all a Happy, Healthy and Yummy New Year!!!

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(*) Special reference to my dear American host-family. The Texas Taters is a recipe that Ann, the classy grand-mother, is required to prepare every Christmas. It is absolutely delicious but I don’t dare figuring out the calorie count. It contains potatoes and a LOT of sour-cream and butter! But it’s so GOOD…

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Cucumber, lemon, mint and apple smoothie
(serves 2/3)

You can add more or less apple juice depending on the consistency you like.

1 cucumber (about 400 g), peeled and sliced
juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
20 cl / 7 fl oz organic or traditional apple juice

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Remove and serve immediately.

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Carrot, sweet potato, coriander and coconut milk soup
(serves 4)

If you don’t have the Thai red curry paste or the nuoc-mâm don’t worry, the recipe also works very well without these ingredients. The coconut milk can also be replaced with any other kind of milk. On the other hand, the lime and the fresh coriander are essential! They give all its freshness to this smooth and comforting soup.

800 g / 28 oz carrots, peeled and sliced (about 9 large carrots)
1 sweet potato, peeled and sliced
1 onion, sliced finely
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
50 cl / 2 cups chicken broth (1 chicken stock cube)
40 cl / 2 cups coconut milk
juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp nuoc-mâm (Vietnamese fish sauce)
2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped

Place the carrots and the sweet potato in a medium pan. Cover with boiling water and let simmer for about 10 minutes. If you use a chicken stock cube, drain the vegetables on top of a large bowl so that you keep the water which is full of flavor and vitamins. Poor 50 cl / 2 cups in a measuring cup while still hot, immediately drop the stock cube in, let it soften for a few minutes, then stir until the cube is fully dissolved.

Sauté the sliced onion in a large pan on medium heat with the olive oil. When softened, add the red curry paste and stir for a minute or two. Add the drained carrots and sweet potato in the large pan, as well as the coconut milk, the nuoc-mâm and the lime juice. Stir and add the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, lower to medium heat, cover and let it simmer for about 10 minutes.

Remove from stove, add 1 tbsp of chopped fresh coriander and blend until smooth. Sprinkle with the remaining coriander before serving.

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Energy boost salad
(serves 4)

4 handfuls fresh baby spinach
200 g / 1 cup quinoa
1 cauliflower
4 large carrots, peeled and grated
1 green apple
1 avocado
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
2 tbsp chive, chopped
4 tbsp pumpkin seeds
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 pinch of cinnamon
salt / pepper

For the sauce
2 tbsp low fat Greek yogurt or fromage blanc
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp maple syrup
juice of 1 lemon
1 pinch of turmeric powder
1 pinch of cayenne pepper
salt / pepper

Cook the quinoa in 2 cups of water (two times its volume) with a pinch of salt until all the water is absorbed (about 15 minutes). When ready let it cool down for 10 minutes or so.

Preheat oven to 180°C / 350°F. Prepare the cauliflower by removing the outer leaves and separating the florets. Place in bowl with 1 tbsp olive oil, cinnamon, season with salt and pepper and mix well. Transfer on a parchment paper covered baking sheet and bake for about 5 minutes. Turn the cauliflower pieces over with a fork and bake for 10 more minutes, until tender but still crispy. Remove from oven.

Prepare the sauce by beating all the ingredients together until smooth.

Place the spinach, the grated carrots and about half the sauce in a large bowl and mix well. Add the quinoa, the cauliflower, the parsley, the chive and mix well. Toast the pumpkin seeds a few minutes in a frying pan on medium heat. Peel and thinly slice the apple and the avocado.

Split the content of the large bowl between four plates. Carefully add the apple and avocado slices. Sprinkle with the toasted pumpkin seeds and serve immediately with the remaining sauce.

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Turkish delight

Istanbul is a fascinating city! Split between Europe and Asia, it has such a rich history. A Greek trading city in its early history, it successively became the capital of the Roman, the Byzantine and the Ottoman Empires. It is also the second largest city on the European continent after Moscow, with over 14 million inhabitants.

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By pure chance (but also a bit thanks to Tripadvisor) we picked a hotel in Boyoglu.
I immediately loved this neighborhood, with its antiques, designer shops, cool cafes and steep streets. It is walking distance from the buoyant historic quarter of Sultanahmet but yet very laid back.

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We stayed at Faik Pasha Suites & Apartments, a very charming boutique hotel. Every morning we would enjoy a few pieces of Yufka (flat bread) with some Çai (black thee) on a nice covered terrace overseeing a little garden, in the company of a friendly cat. Cats are everywhere, so numerous but apparently really well feed and healthy. We couldn’t help but take some interesting specimen in picture. One had such a worried expression imprinted on his face; it was hilarious. When visiting the market, a colorful stall caught my eye with what I believed were nice dried fruits and spices. But when I looked a bit closer I realized there were all different types of cat food. Incredible! We also found out that Istanbul cats love a good cup of coffee, as you can see on the picture picture.

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You need at least three days to enjoy the many wonders of the city. The first day we took a ferry to the Asian side. The highlight was sitting on pillows overseeing the Bosphorus while sipping on Turkish coffee. The second day we crossed the Galata bridge toward the historical quarter. I was really impressed by the Hagia Sophia, even though a very large scaffolding currently prevents enjoying it fully. The world’s largest cathedral for a thousand years it was converted into an imperial mosque when the city fell into hands of the Ottoman Turks. A special atmosphere also emanates from the Basilica Cistern, an impressive subterranean construction dating from the 6th century. Unfortunately, we could only admire the Blue Mosque from outside as we were discouraged by a very long line and it was later closed to tourists.

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In terms of restaurants, there is so much to choose from! We tried both ends of the spectrum from trendy Lokanta Maya, very nice but a bit pricey to traditional Refik and its delicious mezze and shish kebab. The many rooftop terraces are also a great way to enjoy fantastic views of the city by night. At the 360, up a very nice open staircase, sexy sailors served us delicious cocktails, whereas we went for some specialty coffee at Galata Konak Cafe.

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The last evening we went fully local in a small bar with live Turkish music. The singer would choose hers songs from a pile of napkins handed over by members of the audience who would throw their arms in the air at the sound of their favorite tune. What a great way to end our stay in such a lively and colorful city!

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Pomegranate, cucumber and goat-cheese salad
(Serves 4)

Fresh-pomegranate-juice stands flourish on every street corner. When we got back I absolutely wanted to cook something with pomegranate. Plus this fruit is moderate in calories and a good source fibers and antioxidants.

1 pomegranate
1 cucumber
1 small goat cheese (crottin)
2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar of Modena

Open the pomegranate by scoring it with a knife and breaking it open. Separate the seeds from the peel and the internal white pulp membranes which gives it a sour flavor. Cut the cucumber in small cubes without pealing it, add some salt and leave to sweat for a few minutes. Remove the excess water from the cucumber and mix with the pomegranate seeds and the herbs. Season with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Thinly slice the goat cheese and add on top of the preparation right before serving.

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Chicken, apricot and almond tajine
(Serves 4)

I’ve been cooking this tajine for years. The use of chicken makes it less fat and quicker to prepare: not need to let it simmer for hours as a regular tajine. And the smell of orange and cinnamon immediately takes you on a journey to oriental lands!

4 chicken breasts, sliced
175 g / 6 oz dried apricots
25 g / 1 oz almond powder
25 g / 1 oz toasted flaked almonds
1 onion, sliced finely
2 garlic cloves, sliced finely
70 cl / 1/3 cup chicken broth
zest and juice from 1 orange
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp liquid honey
3 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt, pepper

Sauté the chicken slices in a medium pan / casserole with a tbsp of olive oil. Once golden, set aside. Sauté the sliced onion in the same pan on medium heat with an extra tbsp olive oil. When softened, add the garlic and the spices and stir for a minutes or two. Add the chicken, the chicken broth, the orange juice and zest, the cinnamon stick and the honey. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over a gentle heat for 20 more minutes. Add the dried apricots and two tbsp of fresh chopped mint, cover back and continue simmering for 10 more minutes. Add the almond powder and stir until the sauce thickens. Sprinkle with the remaining fresh mint and toasted flaked almonds before serving.

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Fig, grape and pomegranate tart with light almond sugar crust pastry
(Serves 8)

A light sugar crust pastry is a challenge I absolutely wanted to meet. I am quite satisfied with this version. Crispy and savory! The combination of fig, grape and pomegranate with a nice orange syrup worked out pretty well too.

For the light almond sugar crust pastry (preparation starts one hour ahead)
1 egg
50 g / 1/4 cup butter, cubed at room temperature
75 g / 1/4+1/8 cup low fat greek yogurt or fromage blanc
2 tbsp brown sugar
60 g / 1/2 cup almond powder
200 g / 1+1/3 cup flour
1 pinch of salt

For the filling
50 g / 1/4 cup low fat Greek yogurt or fromage blanc
zest and juice from 1 orange
1 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp caster sugar
6 figs
300 g seedless grapes (red or white)
1/2 pomegranate seeds
2 tbsp Xeres vinegar

To prepare the sugar crust pastry, start by whisking the egg in a bowl. Then add the butter, the Greek yogurt / fromage blanc and the sugar and mix well with a wooden spoon. When the butter starts to mix with the other ingredients, add the almond powder and mix well. Add the flower and a pinch of salt and finish combining using your hands. You should obtain a slightly sticky dough. Shape into a ball, wrap in cling film and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.

On a floured parchment paper covered surface, roll out the pastry dough to fit your tart pan. Line your tart pan (I keep the parchment paper underneath to prevent sticking) and prick the base with a fork. Cut out a piece of parchment paper and line the bottom of the tart. Place beans or any oven proof weight and bake in a preheated oven 180°C/ 350°F for 20 minutes. Remove weight and parchment paper and bake for a further 3-4 minutes, or until slightly golden. Set aside.

Beat the Greek yogurt / fromage blanc with brown sugar and orange zest. Set aside. Cut the figs in quarters. In a large frying pan, pour the caster sugar, the orange juice and the Xeres vinegar. Bring to a boil until the sugar has fully dissolved. Add the fig quarters and cook for about 5 minutes on a medium heat. Remove with figs with a skimmer and set aside. Renew the operation with the grapes and the pomegranate seeds.

Fill the tart base with the flavored Greek yogurt / fromage blanc, place the fruits on top in a circular shape. Cook the syrup on higher heat for a few minutes, until it starts thickening. Pour on top of the fruits. Can be served warm or cold, with some Greek yogurt or fromage blanc on the side.

Rain and treats

Luxembourg is a charming city but Sundays tend to be very quiet. They are great for meeting with friends around a copious brunch, going for long walks in the woods or laying down in the park. But what if it is a mid-July Sunday when most of your friends are away and for some reason it is constantly raining? I find myself stranded at home with plenty of time on my hands. This is the perfect opportunity to try out new recipes! For lunch, I want to bring Summer back with a fresh quinoa salad. I love the bitter-sweet of grapefruit in salads. An avocado, smoked salmon and grapefruit quinoa salad with a light “fromage blanc” sauce it will be! I had some salmon left, so I accompanied my quinoa salad with smoked salmon potted eggs.

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When the sun starts setting, I feel like a warm and comforting dish. My coral lentil, chicken and coconut milk soup did the trick. Finally to please my Dutch boyfriend with a reference to his national color, I decided to go for a full blown orange dinner with a carrot cake, an all time favorite. I sometimes cook a gluten-free version of it for my gluten sensitive friends. Without giving in to the recent gluten-free or all-organic crazes, I like the challenge of baking with unusual ingredients and discovering new flavors and textures. My cupboards are now well-stocked with different types of flour: coconut, chestnut, corn, rice, buckwheat. I am not done experimenting!

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Avocado, smoked salmon and grapefruit quinoa salad

(serves 4)

200 g / 1 cup quinoa
2 avocado
150 g / 5 oz smoked salmon
1 grapefruit

For the “fromage blanc” sauce
200 g / 1 cup fromage blanc (can be replaced by fromage frais or quark)
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp chives, chopped
1 tbsp dill (fresh and chopped or dried)
salt / pepper

Cook the quinoa in 2 cups of water (two times its volume) with a pinch of salt until all the water is absorbed (about 15 minutes). When ready let it cool down for 10 minutes or so.

Dice the avocados and slice the salmon. Cut the grapefruit in half crosswise and remove the pulp with the help of a thin kitchen knife while keeping the grapefruit on top of a bowl in order to collect the juice. Keep the juice aside and mix all the other ingredients in a large bowl.

To prepare the sauce: Mix the fromage blanc, the Dijon mustard, the grapefruit juice, the chopped chives and the dill. Season with salt and pepper.

When cooled down, pour the quinoa and the sauce in the large bowl together with the other ingredients and gently stir.

Smoked salmon potted eggs (Oeufs cocotte)

(serves 4)

4 eggs
50 g / 1.5 oz smoked salmon
20 cl / 7 fl oz light cream
1 tbsp chives, chopped
1 tsp dill (fresh and chopped or dried)
salt / pepper

Chop the chives. In a bowl mix with the cream and the dill. Season with salt and pepper. Divide the cream and herb mix between four small pots. Thinly slice the salmon and divide between the four pots. Add an egg on top of each pot. Season with salt and pepper. Heat in a bain-marie either in a pan or in the oven for 10 minutes or until the egg white turns solid.

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Coral lentil, chicken and coconut milk soup

(serves 4)

220 g coral lentil
1 carrot, diced
3 chicken breasts, sliced
20 cl / 7 fl oz coconut milk
1 onion, sliced finely
1 garlic clove, sliced finely
1/2 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp coriander, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
75 cl / 25 fl oz chicken broth
1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped

Sauté the chicken slices in a medium pan with a tbsp of olive oil. Once golden, set aside. Sauté the sliced onion in the same pan on medium heat with some extra olive oil. When softened, add the garlic and the spices and stir for a minute or two. Add the lentil, the diced carrot and the chicken broth. Bring to a boil and then cover and lower the heat. Leave it to cook for 10 minutes. Add the chicken slices and leave it to cook for another 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk and give it a good stir. No need to blend. Sprinkle with fresh coriander before serving.

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Carrot Cake (gluten-free option)

(serves 8)

3/4 carrots, finely grated
95 g / 1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
60 g / 2 oz walnut halves, finely chopped
45 ml / 3 tbsp olive oil
45 ml / 3 tbsp colza oil
175 g / 1+1/4 cup plain flour (for gluten-free version mix 75 g / 1/2 cup chestnut flour and 100 g / 3/4 cup rice flour)
1 package 16 g / 2 tsp baking powder (make sure to chose it with maize starch for gluten-fee version)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 pinch of salt

Cream-cheese frosting (optional)
50 g / 1.5 oz butter at room temperature (salted or not)
100 g / 3 oz cream-cheese (Philadelphia)
50 g / 3/4 cup icing sugar
1 package 7.5 g / 2 tsp vanilla sugar (or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract)

Preheat oven to 150°C / 300°F.

In a mixing bowl, whip the eggs and sugar energetically until creamy and fluffy, then add the oil and mix well. In another bowl sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Fold the flour mixture into the egg mixture and blend well. Add carrots and chopped walnuts and blend well.

Butter and dust the cake mold with flour. Pour in the dough and bake in a preheated oven 150°C/ 300°F for 1 hour. You can also use muffin molds, in this case only bake for 45 minutes.

Let the cake cool on a wire rack. When cold, you can ice the cake if you wish. In this case mix the butter and the cream cheese until smooth. Then add the sifted icing sugar. Mix well and cream your cakes with the icing. Hold 15 minutes in fridge before serving.