Armenia: Alani (Apricots Stuffed with Walnuts)

It seems like a different lifetime when I last posted on my blog. What happened? Well, life, I guess. I’ve really had a busy couple of months and my routine has been turned upside down, which, to be totally honest, I never like.

But this doesn’t mean that I’ve given up on my goal to prepare a dessert from every country of the world. And my liking of healthy recipes, of course, remains the same. I’ve been spending less time in the kitchen lately, though I have managed to make a couple of desserts as well. But to get back in the national dishes game, I’ve decided to take it easy and go with something simple this time.

Apricots.png

This is a recipe for a typical Armenian dessert – Alani. It’s basically just dry apricots, stuffed with ground walnuts. It’s super easy to make and delicious.

Apricots.png

ALANI (APRICOTS STUFFED WITH WALNUTS)

Yield: 12 servings
Prep time:  30 min Total time: 30 min

Ingredients

  • 12 dry apricots
  • ⅓ cup water (if needed)
  • sweetener of choice (I actually didn’t use any, since I find dried apricots sweet enough)
  • 60g ground walnuts
  • 1 tbsp dark rum

Preparation

Soak the dried apricots in warm water for 10 minutes, if they are really hard. Then drain the water. If they are already soft enough to split open, you can skip this stage.

Combine the ground walnuts, rum and sweetener of your choice in a small bowl as the filling.

Split open the apricots with a small knife, making sure one end is still intact.

Stuff each apricot with a teaspoonful of the filling and slightly close it up.

That’s it. Serve immediately or chilled.

Apricots.png

NUTRITIONAL INFO

Whole batch

1 serving (1/12)

Calories

584 kcal

49 kcal

Protein

9 g

 0,75 g

Fat

39 g

3,25 g

Carbs

32 g

2,7 g

Vegan Chocolate Muffins

Chocolate vegan muffin

Behold – my very first vegan muffins. Well, not the first that I’ve made, but the first that I’ve invented completely by myself, without any inspiration from other recipes. I couldn’t be prouder. And not only are they vegan, but they’re also low-calorie and relatively low-fat. For a muffin at least.

I was guided only by one rule. To create something that would be vegan and “ordinary” at the same time. Which means that no secret ingredients such as tofu, garbanzo beans or chickpeas were allowed. This way, my non-vegan and non-healthy-eating friends had not excuse to refuse at least giving my muffins a try.

Chocolate vegan muffin

These are already delicious just the way they are, but if you don’t mind adding a few extra calories, you can also experiment by adding extra dark chocolate chips, chopped walnuts or any other nuts, for that matter.

Enjoy!

VEGAN CHOCOLATE MUFFINS

Yield: 6 muffins
Prep time: 20 min  Baking time: 15 min  Total time: 35 min

Ingredients

  • 140 g (1 cup) whole wheat flour
  • 30 g chopped walnuts, optional
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 6 g (3 tsp) stevia or other sweetener to taste
  • 20g (1 tbsp) cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 200 ml (3 cups and 1 tbsp) soy milk or any milk of your choice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 20 g (1 tbsp) dark chocolate, melted

Preparation

Mix together all of the dry ingredients – flour, chopped walnuts, cocoa, baking powder, sweetener of your choice.

Melt the chocolate and add it to the mix. Then slowly add the other wet ingredients and stir well.

Pour the batter into 6 muffin cups and bake at 180°C (356°F) for about 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Chocolate vegan muffin

Chocolate vegan muffin nutrition

Kenya: Chilled Banana Cream

I don’t know what the weather is like in your corner of the world, but here it’s springtime. Forget spring, it’s practically summer. It’s hot, I can run around in my favorite short tops again and I feel like eating ice cream all the time. I feel like a dark cloud has been lifted off me after a very long time. Well, that might not be just because of the great weather, but the timing for this blast of sun has sure been spot on in my life right now.

Banana Cream

So to satisfy my insane ice cream cravings and to somehow capture this lightness that is surrounding me right now, I’ve prepared a light, creamy, refreshing dessert that doesn’t take more than 15 minutes to finish. This way, there’s still plenty of time left for running, biking, taking long walks…you get the picture – I love summer. And I love that feeling of something delicious waiting for you in the fridge when you come home after a long day.

CHILLED BANANA CREAM

Yield: 2 servings
Prep time: 15 min  Chilling time: 60 min or more  Total time: 75 min

Ingredients

  • 250 ml (1 cup) skim milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 30 g (2 tbsp) muscovado sugar
  • 2 – 3 drops vanilla essence
  • 2 very ripe bananas, mashed thoroughly
  • 50g low-fat cottage cheese

Preparation

Heat the milk almost to the boiling point, but do not actually let it boil. Break the eggs into the hot milk, add the sugar and vanilla essence, and whisk to a creamy mixture. Simmer slowly on very low heat, stirring continuously until it thickens. Make sure to remove from heat as soon as you see it thicken. Otherwise, the egg whites will coagulate and you won’t get that smooth, creamy custard.

Mix the egg custard, mashed bananas and cottage cheese. You can use a blender to get a really nice texture, without any lumps. Transfer into a serving dish and freeze, or simply let it chill in the fridge for a while.

Banana Cream

NUTRITIONAL INFO

Whole batch

1 serving (1/2)

Calories

572 kcal

286 kcal

Protein

27 g

 13.5 g

Fat

8 g

4 g

Carbs

98 g

49 g

India: Healthy Gujiya

Gujiya

These little pockets were quite a hit with my family. Well, with some at least. But definitely everyone was asking me what they were filled with. Then I had to explain that this, again, was one of my “special” desserts, this time from India. And that the thing in the middle is called mawa – which is basically just cooked milk (which can be store bought or homemade).

Gujiya

I personally loved the recipe and I can easily say this is one of my favorite national desserts. If you’re making your own mawa, the preparation takes quite some time, but if not, the preparation isn’t very time-consuming.

GUJIYA

Yield: 12 to 14 cookies
Prep time: 45 min  Baking time: 13 – 15 min  Total time: 60 min

Ingredients

  • 125 g  (1 cup) whole wheat flour
  • 25g (2 tbsp) coconut oil
  • 50 ml (1/4 cup) skim milk
  • 200 g (1 cup) mawa
  • 50 g (1/4 cup) muscovado sugar
  • 12 cashew nuts, cut in tiny pieces
  • 1 tbsp raisins
  • cinnamon, to taste

Preparation

Combine the flour and coconut oil. Warm the milk a little and knead the dough, using the milk. Cover the dough and keep it aside for 20 minutes. While the dough rests, prepare the filling for the Gujias.

Combine the mawa, sugar, pieces of cashwes, raisins, and cinnamon.

Knead the dough again and break it into small balls (12 to 14). Take each ball in your hands and press it until it becomes a flat oval. Prepare all the balls in this manner. Cover them with a cloth and keep them aside.

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Take the pressed dough ball and roll it to a 3.5-4” thin disc. Make sure it’s a perfect a circle as you can make. If you have a Gujia mould, put the disc in it. Keep it on the mould, add 2 tablepoons of the filling in the middle of the circle. Dip your finger in water and use it to water the edges. Now close the mould so that the stuffing is enclosed fully inside the poori. Press the mould firmly together.

If you don’t have a mould, like me, simply put the stuffing in the middle of the circle and close it tightly with your fingers, making a little shell. Then press around the edge with a fork, to create a decorative pattern.

Before baking, you can brush the gujiyas with some warm milk, which will contribute to a lovely color and shine, once they are baked baked.

Grease the baking pan, place the gujiyas on it and bake at 200°C for about 13 minutes. Check the gujiyas and if they seem under baked, bake for another minute or two.

Serve chilled at room temperature.

Gujiya

NUTRITIONAL INFO

Whole batch

1 piece (1/13)

Calories

1297 kcal

100 kcal

Protein

50.5 g

 3.9 g

Fat

34 g

2.6 g

Carbs

202 g

15.5 g

Homemade Savoiardi

Savoiardi

Although tiramisu is one of my favorite desserts in the whole world, I have always been making it with store bought Savoiardi. That is, until today. Since this was my very first time, I actually didn’t want to experiment too much, so I made them with all-purpose flour. Well, that’s a mistake I’m not going to repeat, since, in my opinion, they would work just as well with whole wheat flour. I found the recipe at Allrecipes and actually made very little alternations.

SAVOIARDI

Yield: 36 pieces
Prep time: 60 min  Baking time: 15 min  Total time: 75 min

Ingredients

  • 6 eggs
  • 150 g (2/3 cup) brown sugar
  • 8 ml (1 ½ tsp) vanilla extract
  • 140 g (1 cup 2 tbsp) all-purpose (or whole-wheat) flour

Preparation

Preheat oven to 190°C (375°F). Line three pans with parchment paper. Prepare a pastry bag.

Separate the eggs. Whisk the egg yolks with 1/2 of the sugar and all of the vanilla. Beat until very light colored. This will take about 5 minutes.

In a clean bowl beat the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. While beating, slowly add the remaining sugar until combined. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the egg yolk mixture.

Sift the flour over the egg mixture and gently fold it in.

Fill the pastry with half of the batter and pipe 9 cm (3 ½ inch) fingers, 4 cm (1 ½ inches) apart, in rows on the parchment paper. Continue with the second half of the batter in the same manner.

Bake for about 15 minutes until firm to the touch and golden. Remove the paper and fingers from the baking sheet and place on racks to cool.

Savoiardi

NUTRITIONAL INFO

Whole batch

1 cookie (1/36)

Calories

1424 kcal

39 kcal

Protein

55 g

 1.6 g

Fat

27 g

0.75 g

Carbs

249 g

6.9 g

Ireland: Low Fat Soda Bread

Soda Bread

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

What other national dessert to make on a day like this but an Irish one? Well, I didn’t pick anything green, but it is as Irish as it gets. For the very first time in my life, I made (and tasted) Irish Soda Bread. Of course, I again added my own twist, which means that I used peanut butter, home-ground whole wheat flour and brown sugar. And, since this blog after all is called Healthy National Desserts, I made the fruit variety of the bread. I added lots of raisins and even some dried cranberries.

The result? Well, since this was my very first soda bread in life, I can honestly say that it was one of the best breads I’ve had in my life. And most probably the very best fruit bread I ever tasted.

Soda Bread

So roll up your sleeves and get busy, since this national treat is not only delicious and nutritious, but also incredibly easy and quick to prepare.

IRISH SODA BREAD

Yield: 1 big or 2 small loaves
Prep time: 15 min  Baking time: 30 – 45 min  Total time: 45 – 60 min

Ingredients

  • 310 g (2 ½ cups) whole wheat flour
  • 7g (1 tbsp) baking powder
  • 15 g (1 ½  tsp) baking soda
  • 3 g (½ tsp) salt
  • 40g (3 tbsp) brown sugar
  • 50 g (1/4 cup) peanut butter
  • 1 egg
  • 165 g (1 cup) raisins
  • 40 g (1/3 cup) dried cranberries
  • 180 ml (3/4 cup) skim milk

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add the peanut butter and egg and mix until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Stir in the raisins and cranberries, then make a well in the center and pour in the milk. Stir with a spoon until the dry ingredients are moistened.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and, using floured hands, knead gently 8 to 10 times. If you want to make two small loaves, divide the dough into two balls and place onto the prepared baking sheets. If you’re making one big loaf (like I did), the baking time is slightly longer – about 45 minutes.

Bake in a preheated oven for 15 minutes; then reduce heat to 375°F (190°C) and bake until the top of the bread is golden brown, about 15 minutes more. Transfer the bread to a wire rack and cool completely before slicing.

Soda Bread

Whole batch

1 slice (1/24)

Calories

2256 kcal

94 kcal

Protein

63 g

 2,6 g

Fat

42 g

1,75 g

Carbs

451 g

19 g

Albania: Shëndetlie me Mjaltë

Shëndetlie me mjaltë

When I made this dessert the last time, it was for my old blog, which means that I followed the original recipe as closely as I could. Now I made it with my usual twist and I have to say that the difference is huge. I’ve never made a desert that would turn out so differently when made with slight substitutions.

Shëndetlie me mjaltë

All I did was substitute white flour for whole wheat, white sugar for dark and butter for peanut butter. And, of course, I completely ignored the last step – soaking everything in syrup.

The flavor was amazing, yet nothing similar to the original. But the most fun is the texture. I don’t think I’ve ever made anything so crumbly in my life. And although it is quite a pain to cut, serve or even eat this, it’s definitely worth it.

Shëndetlie me mjaltë

My advice would be that if you don’t want to bother cutting it, like the recipe says, just break it into smaller pieces. It gives it a really unique look when served. And you know what else I’ve learned? It goes wonderfully with milk, so don’t be afraid to break it into really tiny pieces and make homemade cereal with it. You can even add some raisins, whole nuts or dried fruits.

SHËNDETLIE ME MJALTË

Yield: 60 servings
Prep time: 30 min  Cook time: 20 min  Total time: 50 min

Ingredients

  • 100 g (1/2 cup) brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 120 g (1/2 cup) peanut butter
  • 80 g (2/3 cup) chopped nuts of your choice
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 500 g (4 cups 1 tbsp) whole-wheat flour

Preparation

Beat the eggs and the sugar with an electric mixer until the mixture thickens. Add peanut butter, nuts, soda and flour. Continue kneading the dough with your hands, but, mind you, it remains very crumbly (not like cookie dough).

I decided to experiment a little with the texture, so I ground about one third of the almonds and chopped the rest of them into a variety of sizes. I also left some of the chopped ones to sprinkle them on top before baking.

Press the dough firmly in a pan and bake at 180°C for 15-20 minutes or until the surface is light brown. Take it out of the oven and let it cool. Cut into any shape or size you wish.

Shëndetlie me mjaltë

NUTRITIONAL INFO

Whole batch

1 piece (1/60)

Calories

3379 kcal

56 kcal

Protein

133 g

2,2 g

Fat

120 g

2 g

Carbs

498 g

8,3 g

Denmark: Fat-Free Red Berry Pudding “Rødgrød med Fløde”

When I came across this incredibly simple and low-fat recipe, I knew immediately I wanted to make it. I know that it might not be the first thing you think about when you hear about Danish desserts, but once you taste it, it no longer matters where it originates from.

Red Berry Pudding

It’s so easy and fast to make, that I prepared it as a dessert after our weekday dinner, only for me and my husband. It was nothing fancy or special, but simply delicious.

The best part is that it leaves a lot of space for giving it a personal twist. You can use pretty much any berries or a combination of berries and other fruits that you like best and then sweeten it to your liking. You cook it as you would a regular homemade pudding, and that’s it.

FAT-FREE RED BERRY PUDDING “RØDGRØD MED FLØDE”

Yield: 2 servings
Prep time: 30 min  Cool time: 120 min  Total time: 150 min

Ingredients

  • 500 g (1 lb) red berries or fruit, fresh or frozen (red currants, black currants, raspberries, strawberries, rhubarb, or a combination)

*Note: I used strawberries, so nutritional info is based on strawberries.

  • 480 ml (2 cups) water
  • 20 g (about 2 tbsp) stevia

*Note: You can also use sugar or any other sweetener you prefer. The amount also depends a bit on the kind of berries you are using and your personal preferences. I used strawberries, which are sweet enough as it is, so I didn’t need a lot of additional sweetening.

  • 20 g (2 tbsp) cornstarch, dissolved in 60 ml (¼ cup) water

Preparation

Simmer the berries of your choice, sugar, stevia or whatever sweetener you prefer, and 2 cups water over medium heat. Cook until the berries begin to break down. Strain the syrup through cheesecloth or a fine-meshed sieve; discard the berries or save them for another use.

Return the syrup to the pan and bring to a boil. Whisk in the dissolved cornstarch liquid; cook, whisking constantly, until a thick pudding forms, 8–10 minutes. Transfer the pudding to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing it directly on the surface of the pudding; chill for at least 1-2 hour. Divide into serving dishes.

Adapted from Saveur.

Red Berry Pudding

NUTRITION DATA

Whole batch

1 serving (1/2)

Calories

237 kcal

119 kcal

Protein

3,3 g

 1,6 g

Fat

1,6 g

0,8 g

Carbs

56,5 g

28 g

Five on Friday

1. Although last week wasn’t my first time in Vienna, I did see Schönbrunn for the very first time. Sadly, the weather was awful and this isn’t really the best time of the year to be visiting one of the most beautiful gardens in the world. Still, after swearing to myself I’ll come back in the summer, I managed to snap a couple of semi-pretty photos.

Schönbrunn

2. One thing that just doesn’t stop to amaze me me every time I’m in Vienna is how much food there is everywhere. And I don’t mean fancy restaurants or cafés, but local fast-food joints, mostly selling kebab, hot dogs, noodles, börek and other ethnical, non-Austrian, specialties. This is a city where you seriously can’t stay hungry.

3. Since I’m a vegetarian, I mostly go for the sweet stuff. Right next to our hotel, there was this bakery and I decided to try out two very unhealthy looking desserts I’ve never seen before. Next to baklava, which is always my first choice, I also wanted to try out a white and a green thing that looked similar to baklava. Well, it turns out it tastes similar too. The green stuff was probably (I’m not really sure) made of pistachios, and the white stuff seemed like a coconut baklava. Well, more like coconut heaven. Seriously, the best coconut dessert I’ve ever had.

Baklava

4. Have you been watching the Winter Olympics? To tell you the truth, I haven’t. And this is a huge confession in my country, since we’re a nation of winter sports and, maybe, soccer as well (which will be the next big thing here this year). So when I say that I haven’t even caught a glimpse of anyone skiing, ski jumping or shooting while skiing yet, I get the strangest looks. So please tell me that I’m not the only one who’s not even remotely interested in all this?

5. Yesterday something has happened to me that has never happened before in my life. I actually burned a dessert I was making. And I don’t mean like baked for a bit too long, so the thing is a bit brown on the edges and slightly too crunchy. No. I mean burned all the way through, leaving it hard as a rock. My kitchen, and my whole tiny apartment, still smells horrible. And it was all my cat’s fault, because she came to sleep in my arms and then I didn’t want to wake her up. I know it’s a silly reason, but you haven’t met my cat yet. She gets very upset when someone declines her company when she wants to cuddle.

JessieLeia

Guess which one I’m talking about.

Spain: “Arroz con Leche” with Brown Rice

I’m pretty sure this is a well-known dessert around the world and almost every culture has its own variation of it. Where I come from, we call it “milk rice”, not rice pudding, which is more similar to Arroz con Leche, which actually means “rice with milk”. My mom use to make our version of it when I was little and it was one of my favorite foods in the whole world when I was growing up.

Arroz con Leche

But I can’t remember when was the last time I ate it, since I haven’t been eating anything white (flour, rice, sugar…) for a few years now. I do eat brown rice on a regular basis, but somehow the idea of making a rice pudding with brown rice has always seemed a bit off to me.

Luckily, I finally gathered the courage to make it and the only thing I regret is the time lost not eating this delicious dessert. It turned out great. I made only a few slight alterations to the original recipe: I used brown rice, brown sugar and I completely left out butter. And, due to brown rice, the cooking time is slightly longer than when making regular rice pudding. Still, this really is a super-fast, easy, delicious and nutritious dessert.

Arroz con Leche

“ARROZ CON LECHE” WITH BROWN RICE 

Yield: 2-4 servings
Prep time: 10 min    Cook time: 60 min    Total time: 1 h 10 min

Ingredients

  • 600 ml (2 1/2  cups) skim milk
  • 280 g (1 1/2 cups) brown rice
  • 45g (3 tbsp) brown sugar
  • 12g (1 tbsp) stevia
  • peel of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1-2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preparation

Pour about 700 ml (3 cups) of water in a large pot and bring to a boil and add the rice. Reduce heat a bit and simmer for about 40 minutes. Remove from the stove and allow rice to sit in the pot of water.

Pour the milk into another large pot and add brown sugar and stevia. At medium heat stir until the sugar is completely dissolved and bring everything to a boil. While you are waiting for the milk to boil, drain the water from the rice.

Once the milk boils, add the drained rice, cinnamon stick and lemon peel. Cook everything at medium heat for another 15-20 minutes, until the rice is really soft. Remove the cinnamon stick and lemon peel. Remove the pot from the stove and pour your rice pudding into a serving dish. Sprinkle the top with ground cinnamon. Allow it to cool for about 15 minutes before serving.

It is also delicious when cold, in which case you can refrigerate it for a few hours before serving it.

*Note: If you don’t have a cinnamon stick, you can simply add more cinnamon into the mixture already while cooking.

Arroz con Leche

NUTRITION DATA

Whole batch

1 serving (1/4)

Calories

1394 kcal

348 kcal

Protein

40 g

10 g

Fat

8 g

2 g

Carbs

287 g

72 g