Cooking myself to sleep

Ever heard of insomnia? Ever had it? If you answered “yes” to both of those questions then welcome to my world and I hope you are enjoying the flight just as much as I am. Not. I don’t know if it’s the flying over different time zones or the excessive drinking of green tea and black coffee or my brain that has been so switched on lately or the combination of it all but I just cannot go to sleep. I mean I do sleep – but it doesn’t feel like sleeping if you get my gist. It feels more like a hard labour getting my eyes closed and forcing myself to pass out… and then “waking up” 20 mins later and going thru it all again. Most of the times I just give up and get up. The first week was harsh. Going from a light sleeper to no sleeper ain’t an easy ride. The second week felt like a joke I was playing on myself. Then the third week of insomnia slowly approached and I figured that “if you can’t fix it Jack you gotta stand it”. And since my glass is always half full (oh my gosh this post IS full of clichés already and I haven’t even finished the first paragraph!) I decided that rather than thinking about the wasted time I could have spent sleeping I’m gonna utilise it to do something productive. Like cooking. And baking. Because counting grams and spoons of sugar and chocolate is so much more fun that counting stupid imaginary sheep jumping over the fence.

And so after long 9 months of avoiding the one place that used to be my haven of peace and creativity back in the UK I stepped inside my Dubai kitchen and had a proper look for the first time. I’m a self-confessed gadget girl and my kitchens were always the place to show for it. Blenders, whisks, shape cutters, coffee machines, tea sets, pasta makers you name it I had it. I even had a special spoon for scooping out honey for heaven’s sake! And now the most elaborate thing I found inside this “kitchen” (yes I couldn’t help it, it deserved the quotation marks) was a box of matches. A very large and cool box but nonetheless still a box. It was time to upgrade.

It only took one trip to IKEA and a rather long visit to the Dubai Mall and my domestic goddess’ needs felt a little more satisfied… At least until I move to an apartment that offers more than 4 square meters of kitchen space. I was all set and ready to kick my insomnia’s butt Gordon Ramsay’s style ! 

The Peabbage salad”

This is the simplest crowd-pleaser salad I have ever invented.

Red cabbage chopped

Two medium pears either chopped or peeled (leave the skins as it adds a little bit extra bite and crunchy taste)plus a lot of white vinegar.

The combo may sounds strange but wait till you try it out. It’s fantastic !

Pear +Cabbage = Peabbage

Pear +Cabbage = Peabbage

“The Secret Agent Cupcakes”

The expiration date of these is about 10 minutes after being served. I made a couple of batches already and none lasted longer than that. And mind you – these are sugar-free, low carb, almost-fat-free cupcakes. Or as I like to put it – eating those pretty much makes you slimmer. You are welcome !

Can of cooked red kidney beans (I know what are you thinking but just trust me on this one!) -blended into a smooth paste with added vanilla flavouring – or any other flavouring you like… 

Darkest chocolate you can find (I always use at least 70%)- melted 

Peanut butter- I know I said these cupcakes are low-fat and peanut butter may not be on the top of the low-fat list. But peanut butter fat is “good fat” so don’t be too scared. Use crunchy, smooth whatever rocks your boat but mind you it should be organic and with no added sugar

Cocoa powder (optional – skip it if you enjoy sweet rather than bitter)

Baking soda

Stevia (optional)

3-4 large eggs 

I don’t do measures I usually just go with my gut feeling on texture and flavour. Mix it all up and bake on 180-200 for about 25-30 mins. As for the frosting I went with low-fat cream cheese with peanut butter and just a splash of a strong coffee shot for smoothness just because all of my creativity was spent on the bean base. However next time I make those I’m playing with an idea of tofu based soya goodness- I’ll let you know when the time comes:)

Hello there Mr. Bean!

Hello there Mr. Bean!

“The Best-Date-of-Your Life-balls”

I’m obsessed with dates at the moment. And there is no better place to be obsessed with dates than in Dubai where they cost near to nothing and are absolutely to die for. I warm you tho- because of the sugary nature of dates this is not a very diet friendly snack. Limit yourself to about two a day. Don’t eat 10 in one sitting like I did.

Palmful of almonds and walnuts (or any other nuts you love) – roasted on a frying pan (don’t be afraid to let them burn a little it adds a nice toasty flavour to the whole thing) and chopped in a blender or just simply with a knife. 

Dates – my favourite kind is Fard but really any kind will do. From my experience the shinier the better. Chop them roughly  in a blender together with some date syrup (or honey or agave syrup all works well)- if you wanna make those balls a little merrier feel free to add some rum or brandy. I tried that once and it was delish.

Mix  the chopped nuts together with the date paste and add some spices of your liking – I choose cinnamon, cocoa and chilli powder. Not necessarily all together. Scoop out the mixture with a spoon and create little balls. Or squares. Or whatever takes your fancy.  Sprinkle some more cinnamon or other coating spices or on a chopping board and get rolling. When you done, put those babies to the ice for a couple of hours if you can last that long:) Enjoy!

the best date I have had in quite a while ...

“The Mangoconut I-Scream-For-More”

This is a shining example of a great recipe that has gone wrong to create something even greater. I meant to make a mango coconut custard cream with some seasonal fruit salad. But because I rarely follow recipes and NEVER look at measures my cream wouldn’t set. Because I was running out of time and patience I stuck the whole thing in the freezer. At the end of the dinner party I was throwing I went back to it to find not only has it set but it also froze to death and voila – it made for an amazing desert after all !

Two large ripe mangoes – they HAVE to be orange NOT yellow, peeled and blended (yes – I blend a lot, it’s the only machine I own at the moment)

Banana – optional, the browner the better. 

1 Can of coconut milk – bring it to boil and add some custard powder. As I said I don’t do measures so … when you taste more custard powder than coconut you have added too much. Wait until it thickens and turn down the heat. 

Let the milk cool down a little and then add the fruit mixture. No need for sugar or any other sweeteners – the mangoes will do all the hard work. Prepare some nice desert bowls or if you don’t have any (like myself) just use wine glasses and espresso cups. Divide the liquid equally, put it in the freezer and forget all about it for a few hours. Garnish with mint leaves and mango cubes

“So-good-So-ya cup of love”

You may have figured I don’t use milk much. As it happens I have been lactose intolerant this whole time without even knowing it. I’m also sugar intolerant but that’s just a life choice more than anything else. Ever since banning milk products out of my life I made it my goal to find suitable replacements for all of my favourite snacks such as yogurt, cheese and above all a nice cup of hot milk with honey before bed.

So here it comes (and this is so good I can’t believe I haven’ tried it earlier) : heat up some soya milk and add a few spoons of date syrup. Wait until the milk turns darker colour and thickens a little bit. Pour into a cup and add some cinnamon. OMG! I may have to have some right now…

… Or get some extra soft tofu. Whisk together with a splash of soya milk and a few scoop of protein powder of your choice. If you need an extra boost in the morning add an espresso shot. Best low-fat, protein-packed , lactose-free yoghurt-like breakfast I have had in a while.

Mmmmmm...

Mmmmmm…

“Panamanian Birds”

“A Spanish bird” is a traditional Czech dish that has despite its name absolutely nothing to do with Spain. Or a bird for that matter. It is usually prepared using beef, bacon, eggs, pickles and sausage (I know -sounds delicious doesn’t it?:) but when you live in a constant soaring heat of 40 degrees and higher none of these ingredients sound very appetising. Still – whenever I cook for my friends I try to introduce a little bit of Czechness into their lives and so I came up with a much lighter and healthier version. And since it has become a popular dish with my dear Panamanian friend I have taken the liberty to not only remake it but also rename it.

Turkey breast

Beef bacon strips

Asparagus

Turnip, swede, beetroot, carrots

Slice the turkey breast into long and thin strips and wrap around a few stalks of asparagus. Season with your favourite spices – I love using cayenne pepper and sea salt, sometimes even a splash of soy sauce (yes- soya again!:). To hold it all nicely together use the bacon strips- would also work with ham or any other kind of cold cut meat. If you would like to make those wraps a little more substantial then add a quarter of a hard-boiled egg next to the asparagus. To give them a bit of shape , fry the “birds” individually in a pan for about a minute on each side .

Peel and roughly chop all the root vegetables and place them into a large baking tray together with a few slices of garlic and some chilli peppers. Add a cup or two of chicken/ vegetable or beef stock. Place the pre-fried birds on the top and cover with a tin foil. Bake on 200 for about 20-30 minutes . Keep on checking and adding the liquid level – the veggies should always be partially submerged. Uncover for the last 5-10 minutes.

pájaros panameñas

pájaros panameñas

“Beef-Me-Up Salad”

I have taken on running. I try to run every day. I started off slowly at 3k-a-day and I’m currently working my way up to 10k. I’m at 6.5k at the moment and it feels pretty damn good ! With so much running one needs to get some proper nutrition too. This salad easy, quick and satisfying – pretty much all you want when in training or in pursuit of eating clean.

1/2 hass avocado

spinach

fennel

chillies

bean sprouts

lean beef steak cutIMG_4108

x

G. 

Lost but not Forgotten vol. I- Dhaka

Hey you there!

It’s ok put that phone down – no need to call the police I have not gone missing! Since coming back from my epic holiday I have been so busy pretending to be busy that there was hardly any time to check in on Facebook let alone to blog.  But I have missed you guys so much ! My fingers were itching to type away whilst trying to keep up with the mayhem in my head.

There is so much I’d love to share with you but can’t for whatever reason – or at least not just yet. So let’s just stick to the safe topics. Like my flying stuff.

You may not have realised it but there have been a couple of flights and layovers I have not posted about. The stories got somehow lost … but they were nonetheless never forgotten.  I have decided to make up for it and create a limited edition of extra special posts.

Dhaka, Bangladesh

I’m not going to lie about this. DAC is not one of the flights that crew get particularly excited about. As a turnaround – Dhaka is a damn long flying duty and as a layover – well it’s not one of the most glamorous destinations. Altho I have been flying for just over six months (or maybe because of that) I have already been to Bangladesh twice. And I can’t say I minded terribly.

The flights are usually quite busy, however they are short (mere 4.5 hours) and there is a 24-hour rest at the end of it. What is unlucky about them is the timing – the departure is an early morning one and unless you somehow manage to sleep the afternoon before (which I rarely do as my mind works somehow like this “4-hour flight at 2am? I don’t need to rest for that that’s a piece of cake”) by the time you reach the hotel all you are ready for is B&B (bed&breakfast… or in this case breakfast&bed).

Hence my first time over in Dhaka has turned out to be a Layinner. When I woke up after a 10-hour coma and stumbled outta bed it was time to head down to meet my colleagues for dinner. I admit to having eaten so much that I was ready to sleep again in about two hours. So – that’s what I did. Next morning on the bus heading back to the airport I felt super guilty and made a mental note to myself that if ever back I’d venture out and explore. And as if somebody who has a say in these things was listening I got scheduled for Dhaka again the next month.

Since I knew what to expect this time around I prepared better. I made sure to get some rest ahead of the flight so when we landed I wasn’t feeling like a complete zombie. Maybe just like a half of one. I went to the breakfast buffet for one sole reason – the mangoes ! I made so much fuss about this yellow pieces of heaven on earth last time that the waiter has given not one but two whole mangoes to take with me back to Dubai. I must have made helluva impression on him because when he saw me again he greeted me with a smile and a “Hello Mango Lover Girl”. Now that’s what I call “Beyond Expectations”! Needless to say I filled out a very hefty compliment form for his benefit… As they say – you scratch my back… And I did really enjoy the mangoes a lot!

I allowed myself just a very short and essential rest, went to the gym for a quick run to perk up and stepped out of the hotel. Immediately I got tailed by a little boy who said he wanted to “bodyguard me” by which I believe he meant to take me from one shop to another until I spent all the millions that I -in his eyes- must have owned. At first I tried to be polite and explain I wasn’t after any shopping but after an hour of his relentless self I gave up and headed back to the hotel. There was no getting rid of him and he obviously knew the neighbourhood better than I did.  At last I understood why none of the crew I asked wanted to join me in my adventure. It’s not for everyone. It definitely wasn’t for me. Not on my own anyway – not even with my “bodyguard”.

Somehow disappointed and a little annoyed by how little I managed to see of the city I took my book and went up to the hotel pool where I watched the pinkiest sunset ever. From high above Dhaka seems exactly the same as from the streets – chaotic and impenetrable.  When leaving I made no more promises about trying to explore the next time should there be one. Maybe it’s just not meant to be. But who knows… maybe I just need to grow a bigger pair of b**ls.

Sunset a la Dhaka

Sunset a la Dhaka

x

G.