#tableporn

“A New U” was the theme of the latest issue of Food e Mag DXB, Dubai’s online magazine featuring curated content by bloggers. I was asked to create a table setting reflecting this theme and intertwining the natural elements of food. Setting up tables is by far one of my favorite things to do, it even supersedes cooking. I love the creative process of scrounging for items from all over and transforming them into a table setting. I really wanted this table to embody a true rustic “farm to table” look that is both authentic and attainable. My weekly haul from the Farmer’s Market on the Terrace left me with a bounty of vibrant, organic vegetables to play with. Gathering inspiration from raw linens, twine and pops of color my table setting defines the whimsical spirit of a new year and “a new u.” To view the spread click here, also sharing photos below:

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Acai Bowl Love

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Acai bowls, I love you so. If you haven’t tried these glorious bowls you are truly missing out. Acai, (pronounced aa-saa-eee) particularly the acai berry is a Brazilian superfood originating from the Amazon. I don’t need to go through the long list of health benefits, that’s what google is for, but trust me it’s good and good for you. Acai bowls have been such a hit in the US and are widely available in juice bars and cafes, even most speciality grocery stores carry Sambazon acai puree which is perfect for making acai bowls at home. You can imagine my disappointment upon discovering that acai is extremely hard to come by in Dubai (there have been rumors of an acai bowl joint opening soon!). Thankfully I was able to find Sunfood brand freeze dried acai powder, it isn’t as good as the puree, but it’s a pretty good option for now (acai puree now available, see update below). I blend the acai powder with frozen bananas and strawberries to get that thick texture similar to the puree. Acai bowls are also so fun to garnish, you must have seen all kinds of “acai art” on social media. I love using fresh berries, sliced bananas, different types of seeds (chia, flax, hemp), homemade granola, almond butter, bee pollen, cacao nibs, dried goji and mulberries, the list goes on and anything works. I have made enough bowls using the dried acai powder so I just wanted to share my recipe for what I believe yields the best textured puree:

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Recipe (makes 2 bowls)

1 1/2 frozen bananas

3/4 cup frozen strawberries

2 tbs freeze dried acai powder

3/4 cup almond milk

Blend all ingredients in a high speed blender till a thick puree is formed. Garnish with your favorites fruits, nut butter, seeds and superfoods.

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*update* I have recently found acai puree being distributed in the UAE by http://www.acaimiddleeast.com. The puree is by Mil & Ross direct from Brazil and they do home deliveries (minimum order of 210 aed required for delivery). I made an acai bowl with the puree this morning and it was quite lovely. I do think it’s a bit sweet, because they add guarana into it but the texture and taste is spot on. Here is a photo of my acai bowl made with Mil & Ross acai puree:

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Hong Kong Travel Diary

It’s taken me awhile to put up this post, no excuses really except that I just haven’t had much time. The past couple of months have flown by and life is busy, that’s a good thing! Back in December my BH and I embarked on a little getaway to Hong Kong. As usual heading up to the trip I spent hours upon hours researching where to go, what to do and most importantly what to eat. I dig through forums, blogs, websites finding any and every bit of foodie information related to a place. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s this.

Hong Kong was wonderful, just walking through the city there is such a distinct buzz different to any place I’ve seen. The contrast between east & west and the old & the new is so interesting and really adds to the unique charm and character of the city. The food culture was vibrant, modern and absolutely delicious. Sharing my favorite eats below (pictures are iPhone only):

Processed with VSCOcam with p7 presetOur first dinner of the trip at Sohofama. The restaurant describes itself as modern Chinese comfort cuisine, but really got my attention was its farm to table concept supporting local produce and ingredients in all the dishes. We feasted on steamed whole crab in organic eggs whites, black truffle xiao long bao and tea smoked duck.

Processed with VSCOcam with s2 presetBreakfast at Prune Organic Deli: an adorable hidden gem and completely tucked in the back alley of a neighborhood. I love little cafes full of character and whimsical delights. Prune Organic Deli is a boutique cafe serving delicious healthy, vegetarian fare. It’s a small menu filled with smoothies, fresh juices, salads and an all-day breakfast. We ordered the chocolate dream smoothie, the cleanse juice, acai bowl and almond butter toast. It was the perfect light breakfast, exactly what we needed after the night before.

Processed with VSCOcam with k3 presetCoffee stop at Cafe Deadend. Adorable spot, but the coffee was a bit too strong for me

Processed with VSCOcam with k3 presetLunch at Sunday’s Grocery. Fried chicken sandwich in an NYC inspired bodega, do I even need to say more?

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IMG_8840Dinner at Chom Chom: vibrant inspired Vietnamese street food in a casual, but buzzing setting. Don’t miss the Vietnamese fried chicken, mushroom pho roll, and the kaffir lime chicken cabbage salad.

IMG_8822Artisan hand-crafted tea at Teakha. Order the masala chai and sit forever.

Processed with VSCOcam with f3 presetI am in love with the Pressed Juices company so I was thrilled to find an outlet in Hong Kong. Perfect for when you just need that green juice (after you indulged in fried chicken).

Processed with VSCOcam with k3 presetElephant Grounds vanilla bean latte…best coffee of the trip, best coffee of my life. Nothing else needs to be said.

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Special occasion dinner at Nur. The concept of the restaurant focuses on “nourishing gastronomy,” and the tasting menu was a wonderful journey through exactly that.

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Processed with VSCOcam with e2 presetLittle Bao. Absolutely buzzing, hip spot. I loved the open kitchen feel and you could see everything the chefs were doing. The restaurant elevates the bao to a whole new level. Don’t miss the truffle fries and spicy fried chicken bao.

Processed with VSCOcam with k3 presetvanilla bean croissant ice cream sandwich from the Urban Bakery at Lee Gardens.

Sugar Sugar

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I have suddenly been surrounded by sugar boycotters. From my husband to my friends, everyone has the same New Year’s resolutions and that is “no refined sugar.” I didn’t think it would actually last past January but everyone has gone full swing into February as well. I mean it is a good thing, cutting down on sugar is always a good thing, especially for someone like my husband who has a crazy sweet tooth and craves desserts, ice cream, cookies, chocolate, you name it. Me on the other hand I love my savories, give me cheese over chocolate any day, I will crave the occasional sweet but sparingly. For someone like me who loves to bake desserts and confections this sugar boycott campaign has been quite a buzz kill for my usually treats filled kitchen. I’ve literally stopped baking anything because I know no one will eat it. Our treats have been replaced by weekly stops to Comptoir 102, Spill the Bean, Kitsch Counter and Omnia Gourmet (cafes here in Dubai) for their wonderful sugar free confections. Alas the baker in me was feeling the itch to get back into the kitchen to make something, ANYTHING. I have dabbled in my chia seed puddings, bliss balls and vegan cookies so it wasn’t completely unfamiliar territory. I put together my take on a layered chocolate caramel slice using ground almonds as the base, tahini, dates & coconut oil for the caramel and melted down cacao for the chocolate layer. The result was actually delicious and an awesome “no refined sugar” dessert option that’s also raw, vegan & gluten free! I am still quite the traditionalist when it comes to my desserts, I love my butter, sugar, cream and eggs but sometimes it is nice to change things up.

Recipe (make about 15 slices)

Base

3/4 cup ground almonds (I used Bob’s Red Mill almond meal)

6 medjool dates

1 tbs virgin coconut oil

1 tbs water

pinch of sea salt

Chocolate Layer

1/2 cup + 2 tbs raw cacao powder

1/3 cup virgin coconut oil

1 tbs pure vanilla extract

1/4 tsp sea salt

Caramel Layer

1/2 cup tahini

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup coconut oil

3 medjool dates

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

pinch of sea salt

Assembly

For the base: pulse all the ingredients in a food processor till it’s of a gritty wet texture. Press evenly into a tin pan (I used a 8.5 x 3.5 inch pan). Freeze till firm (about 15 minutes)

For the chocolate: in a medium saucepan melt together the cacao powder, coconut oil, vanilla extract & sea salt on medium-low heat. Stir constantly till smooth and completely melted.

Remove base from freezer and pour half of the chocolate over it. Put back into the freezer to set (about 15 minutes)

For the caramel: Blend all ingredients together in a food processor till a thick caramel texture is reached.

Remove base/chocolate from freezer and pour the entire batch of caramel over it. Spread evenly. Put back into the freezer to set (about 20 minutes). Once set pour the remaining reserved chocolate over the layers and put back into the freezer to set for 30 minutes.

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After 30 minutes, use a wet butter knife to cut alongside all four sides of the pan so the layers loosen. Carefully turn the pan over to release the bar onto a cutting board and turn over so the almond base is at the bottom. Cut into slices and store in an air-tight container in the fridge.

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Chia Seed Pudding & Buckwheat Granola in January

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January is always a time of  those new beginnings and wiping that slate blank for a fresh start. That’s the optimist in me speaking. I’ve always felt that New Year’s resolutions are a commercial creation to put pressure on us to change what’s bad to good in our lives. I mean who’s to say that you need a new year to make a change in your life, you could probably make the same change on a boring Monday afternoon if you really wanted to. That’s the pessimist in me speaking. Granted, you do what you gotta do to make a change, whether it’s to eat healthier, work harder or just generally be a nicer person (I think that last one is the best kind of resolution), I just feel you can do that on any day of the 365 days in the year, it doesn’t have to be January 1st.

Enough of that…onto the chia puddings. You’ve seen them trending all over instagram and social media, I know you have. I actually was a little skeptical about how these would taste the first time I ever made them. I mean how good can a seed soaked in almond milk be? Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised by the taste (think textured vanilla pudding) and how versatile they are. Chia puddings in general carry a very muted flavor so you can actually doctor them up however you like. Add a little cacao here, some berries there, some crunchy homemade granola on top and you end up with a killer combination that’s perfect for breakfast and just so simple to make. Not to mention the health benefits (antioxidants, high fiber, high protein, omega 3-s, the list goes on).

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I’ve been a lover of granola forever. My sister always says “ewww why do you always want granola,” I don’t know what it is, but I am a fan. I’ve started experimenting with different combinations, most recently using buckwheat groats which are fantastic. When baked, the groats transform into a crunchy morsel resulting in a wonderfully textured granola, and again very good for you. I’ve layered my buckwheat granola with raspberry chia seed pudding creating a nutty yet sweet combination. Perfect for breakfast or a snack.

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Recipe

raspberry chia seed pudding (adapted from Green Kitchen Stories)

1 cup raspberries

3 tbs chia seeds

1 cup almond milk

1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste

3 tbs pure maple syrup

Mash the raspberries in a food processor or by hand. Add to a bowl with the vanilla paste, maple syrup and chia seeds. Mix to combine. Add the almond milk and keep stirring till combined well. Set aside in the fridge overnight to soak.

buckwheat granola

1 cup buckwheat groats

1 cup rolled oats

3 tbs ground flax seed

2 tbs hemp seeds

1 tbs chia seed

1/4 cup virgin coconut oil

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup whole almonds (or any other nut you prefer)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350F/180 C. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl till combined. Spread onto a lined baking tray and bake for about 30 minutes till golden brown, mixing every ten minutes to brown evenly.

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