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.

Let’s go Dutch

Friday August 15th, it is 8:30, and we are setting off through the deserted streets of Luxembourg city (it is a holiday, it is early, it is raining and it is Luxembourg), friends on the back seat, in the direction of an inspiring weekend in Amsterdam. The plan is to travel the city up and down via all the best ways: on foot, by bike and by boat, as long as the weather permits us to do so. And if this is not the case, we know we can take shelter in one of the numerous cosy cafes and find comfort in a slice of delicious “Appeltaart”.

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One of my favorite cafes in Amsterdam is De Bakkerswinkel. It is always extremely busy, so you need to arm yourself with patience until you are finally seated either to a large table shared with other groups or to a tiny table surrounded by worn out cloth chairs. And then… you find yourself faced with a dilemma: the attractive quiche of day or the warm “broodjes” filled with combinations of ingredients that delight the taste buds; the apple pie (which ranks 2nd or 3rd on our list of best apple pies in Amsterdam) or the delicious scones with homemade lemon-curd and clotted cream? I finally had a lentil, spinach and goat cheese quiche which inspired the vegetable and fresh goat cheese “quiche without crust” that I baked this week.

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The quiche is one of my childhood standards. My mother, always anxious to keep her dishes light (she is a Dietitian) would prepare it without crust. The base is extremely simple and for the filling you can unleash your creativity! Presented with a side salad, it always pushes the right button.

Another breakfast option often seen in Amsterdam cafes and which usually hits the spot is the muesli. When home over the weekend, I like to give a twist to my breakfast with a homemade fruit muesli, so simple and yet so attractive. Over the last few months, I have collected all sorts of seeds, nuts and dried fruits. I feel like a painter when adding a stroke of cranberries here, another one of sunflower seeds there and finishing off with halved almonds.

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Our friends had never set foot in Amsterdam before, thus, for dinner, we decided to take them to places which honor the water component of the city. The first night was on a platform in the IJ river: REM Eiland. This platform was built in Ireland and used to host pirate radio and TV stations. The second night, we chose a cosy trattoria by Keizersgracht (Emperors Canal): Pastini. We all ordered pasta, and it all looked amazing. I highly recommend the Crespelle Capra, a pancake of pasta filled with spices, lemon, goat cheese and green peas.

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On our way back to Luxembourg, we stopped at my boyfriend’s parents for what we thought would be a quick bite. But Kjeld’s mother surprised us with a savory avocado cheese cake and a strawberry pavlova. Both looked absolutely stunning! I had been thinking about baking a pavlova for a while and it was so good that I decided we just had to have it again this weekend. Meringues are really fun to bake. I made them with slightly less sugar than indicated on most recipes. I can’t wait to try other versions, more or less crunchy, with different flavors (orange flower, rose, vanilla) or in different sizes!

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Amsterdam is a truly inspiring city! Kjeld, when are we going back? 😉

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Homemade fruit muesli
(Serves 1)

100 g / 1/2 cup low fat Greek yogurt or fromage blanc 20% fat
50 g / 1/2 cup strawberries, sliced (or any other berries)
1 tsp dried cranberries
1 tsp sunflower seeds
1 tsp pumpkin seeds
3 almonds, halved
1 tsp honey (optional)

Pour the yogurt (or fromage blanc) in a small bowl. If you prefer it sweet, add the honey and mix well. Cover with the other ingredients, one after the other, in the order indicated above.

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Vegetable and fresh goat cheese “quiche without crust”
(Serves 4)

For the base
3 eggs
100 g / 3/4 cup flour
100 ml / 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp milk

For the filling
100 g / 1/2 cup coral lentil
100 g / 3 oz green beans (frozen or fresh)
100 g / 3 oz green peas (frozen or fresh)
100 g / 3 oz carrot, grated
100 g / 3 oz fresh goat cheese
30 g / 1 oz emmenthal cheese, grated (any other grated cheese will do)
1 onion, sliced finely
1 garlic clove, sliced finely
1 tbsp fresh mint, chopped
salt, pepper

Cook the coral lentil in 1 cup of water (two times its volume) with a pinch of salt between 5 and 10 minutes (they should stay firm). Sauté the sliced onion in a large frying pan with a tbsp of olive oil. Once soft add the garlic and stir. Add the green beans and the green peas, stir and cook for 2 or 3 minutes, until the vegetables are defrosted. Add the grated carrot and the cooked coral lentil, season with salt and pepper, give it a good stir and cook for 1 or 2 minutes.

In a mixing bowl, mix the eggs and the flour until smooth. Add the fresh goat cheese and mix until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Then gradually add the milk and mix well.

Butter and dust a mold (about 20 x 25 cm / 8 x 10 inches). Pour in the vegetable mix, then the base mix, add the chopped mint and gently stir to evenly spread the ingredients. Sprinkle the top of the dish with grated emmenthal cheese and bake in a preheated oven 180°C/ 350°F for 45 minutes or until the top turns golden.

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Mini pavlovas
(Serves 4)

For the meringues
3 egg whites
100 g caster sugar
1/2 tsp white wine or cider vinegar
1/2 tsp cornstarch

For the topping
150 ml / 2/3 cup whipping cream (lighter option: 75 ml / 1/3 cup whipping cream and 75 g / 1/3 cup fromage blanc)
2 tbsp icing sugar
A handful of strawberries, currants, blueberries (or any other berries)

In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff. Gradually add the sugar while mixing. Mix the vinegar and cornstarch through. Spoon a quarter of the foam on a lined baking sheet to a kind of heap. Repeat the operation for the 3 other meringues.

Bake in a preheated oven 130°C/ 266°F for an hour and a half. It should be crunchy on the outside and marshmellow-like on the inside. Let is cool down in the oven with the door open.

Slice the berries and when you are close to serving, whip up the cream with the icing sugar. For the lighter option gently fold the whipped cream in the fromage blanc. Place a meringue on a serving plate, tap it gently to break the center. Finally add the cream and the fresh berries on top and enjoy!