Chinese Style Cucumbers—Smashed!

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There’s something very curious going on with the weather. We still have a good month to go before spring but it’s been off with the coats and on with the sunglasses for the past few days this week. Maybe not so curious after all but more frightening, something called global warming.

It’s hard to think about doomsday when it’s all very cheery with the sun shining upon the kids at play in the park and cool looking couples with their shades on sipping their mid day drinks with no intent on leaving their sunny spots on the terrasse. This city is filled with smiling tourists and French families on the school winter break from the other zones in France lending to this collective positive vibe.

Meanwhile I can’t get a spot on that terrasse cause it’s too damn crowded so I’m home taking it out on the only thing I could find in my fridge—cucumbers! So there you have it, a crunchy and refreshing cucumber garlicky salad on a fine, warm winter’s day.

Chinese Style Cucumber—Smashed

INGREDIENTS//Serves 2-3

• 1 large organic cucumber, peeled and cut length-wise, de-seeded
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• 3 cloves garlic, smashed
• 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
• 1 teaspoon soy sauce or tamari sauce (gluten-free option)
• 1 tablespoon sesame oil
• 1 red chili pepper, sliced thin, use accordingly

Instructions

After washing the cucumber, peel the skin, de-seed, and cut it lengthwise. I like to keep some of the skin on for the added texture and color so I alternate between peeling the skin on and off the cucumber.

Pat it dry.

Lay the cucumber cut side down on a chopping board and with a cleaver (using the flat side) or a wide surface knife lay it on top of the cucumber and smash down on it with your other hand. Once you’ve smashed down on all the length of the cucumber, chop into bite size pieces to separate them.

Transfer it to a strainer and add the salt and sugar. Be sure to mix well.
Optional: Let it sit in the strainer above a bowl for 10-15 minutes. Discard the liquid.

In a small bowl combine the cucumber and the last five ingredients, then toss.

Ready to serve.

Anne's Vegan Bounty Chocolate Treats

Four ingredients: Shredded coconut, dark chocolate, maple syrup, coconut oil.

Four ingredients: Shredded coconut, dark chocolate, maple syrup, coconut oil.

With four simple ingredients you’ve got a sweet vegan treat, a Bounty chocolate bar as easy as one, two, three!

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Anne is my neighbor friend who is training to be a reflexology practitioner at the moment. As we were crossing paths we stopped to give each other a bisous , and then had a quick chat. She mentioned she had just received compliments from her daughter’s teacher on some vegan Bounty bars that she had made and delivered to her the other day. Miam, j’adore les barres de chocolat bounty! — It’s pronounced boonty here.

Anne picked up the cue rather quickly…

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…and kindly suggested that the next time she made some she would let me have a taste. Leaping on that opportunity I asked to be there while she made them so I could share this with you folks.

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Then she asked me for a favor in return, to be her cobaye — noted, new vocab added to the list (guinea pig)—for her reflexology practice sessions. It seems to me a win-win situation: Bounty treats and a reflexology treatment. Who could say no to that!

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Homemade coconut chocolate bars.

Homemade coconut chocolate bars.

Not counting the refrigeration time, this took about 15 minutes to prepare. This is a wonderful treat to prepare with young kids too. Good to keep in mind on a rainy day.

Anne and her vegan  Bounty  bars.

Anne and her vegan Bounty bars.

Anne’s Vegan Bounty Bars

INGREDIENTS//Yields approximately 22 pieces

• 200 grams unsweetened shredded coconut
• 2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil
• 2.5 tablespoons maple syrup
• 150 grams dark chocolate, melted

INSTRUCTIONS

In a medium size mixing bowl combine the first three ingredients and mix well.

Using an ice cube tray, fill each square with the mixture.

Place it in the refrigerator for 45 minutes to set.

Melt the chocolate.

Take out the refrigerated coconut squares.

Dip each piece into the melted chocolate, turning it around so that it is all coated in it.

Place it on parchment paper. Then refrigerate them until firm.


NOTE

Don’t waste any leftover melted chocolate, just make chocolate drops on your parchment paper and add some nuts and raisins to it or whatever you have in your cupboards.

Green Apple Leek Salad With Crispy Chickpeas

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Fried chickpeas have been on my mind for nearly a month now.  Something I never considered doing until I ate some at a restaurant in Belleville called Le Grand Bain.  I remember crunching on this little pea that was mixed in with a salad that my gal pals and I ordered and thinking Yum, what is this crispy thing?  Chickpeas are a favorite in our family but we usually make regular hummus, beetroot hummus or just have it whole as a snack or mixed in with salads.

I was just waiting for the right time to experiment...

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All set up in my kitchen lab,  I patted dry the chickpeas and placed them carefully into the frying pan.  After 5 minutes of sizzling, they started to brown.   I fished them out with a slotted spoon and let them cool down.  Et voilà!   Here we have some rather crispy tasting snacks with a creamy interior.    You can shake these fried chickpeas up in a paper bag with some herbs and spices or for those with a sweet tooth just add some brown sugar to the mix. 

I'm always looking for toppings that I can sprinkle and toss over a soup or a salad.    This is at the top of my list for the moment so you'll be seeing it in my future posts.

Green Apple Leek Salad With Crispy Chickpeas

INGREDIENTS//Serves 4

• 3 leeks, julienned
• 2 Granny Smith apple, match sticks
• 1 cup chickpeas, fried
• 170 grams crab meat, shredded (6 ounce tin or 1/2 cup ), or smoked salmon (optional)

Vinaigrette:

• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
• 1/2 lemon, juiced
• 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
• 1/2 teaspoon paprika
• black pepper, adjust accordingly

PREPARATION

Cut the top green part of the leeks off.  You can get rid of the outer stiff layer.  Wash the rest of the greens and store for use another time (vegetable brouillon).

Cut the end of the leek off and then slit the leek down the middle to rinse out any dirt.  Pat it dry.

To cut the leeks into fine julienne slices, fold the leek over in half (not lengthwise), press down and slice thinly lengthwise.

Prepare your steamer basket.  Place the leeks, cover , and steam. 

You want the leeks to be slightly soft but not completely. 

Then take it out of the steamer and run under cold water.

Pat it dry with some paper towels or a clean tea towel.

Fried Chickpeas:

Add some olive oil up to an inch and a half in a medium size pan or pot.   Turn on heat up to high.  Drop in a chickpea to see if the oil is hot enough to fry in.  The chickpea should sizzle.   Add the rest of the chickpeas making sure not to crowd and fry them up for about 5 minutes or until they start turning brown.  They should taste crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

Use a slotted spoon to take them out and lay them over a fine wire rack (I used a mesh skimmer) or paper towels.

 

INSTRUCTIONS

In a large serving bowl add the vinaigrette to the leeks and mix thoroughly.  Let it marinate for about 15 minutes.

Combine the apples and the chickpeas and toss.  Add some black pepper accordingly.



 

Velouté d'Epinards, Fancy Name For Spinach Soup

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Either the green appeals to you or it doesn't but hey I'm not judging it by its color.  I got a eww from my son, Viktor, when I placed a bowl of this soup in front of him which led me to throw in a few ravioles (mini ravioli) to tempt him.  It worked.  He polished off the bowl and I couldn't help but feel smug about it.

Green happens to be one of my favorite colors.  There's something soothing about it along with the scent of fresh cut green grass on a hot summer's day.   During long family road trips as a kid Mum was always telling us to look out the window at the greenery.  "It's good for the eyes", she would say.   Green to me is a peaceful color and when I have a bowl of this soup set in front of me there is this moment of calm and I am grateful for the nutrients that are about to replenish my soul and connect me to Mother Nature.

This is a pure soup which leaves your palate clean and keeps your body feeling snug and toasty.

Vélouté d'Epinards

INGREDIENTS//Serves 6

• 400 grams spinach, fresh
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 medium size onion
• 2 cloves garlic
• 1 leek, chopped
• 2 medium size potatos, small cubes
• 2.5 cups vegetable broth
• 2 cups almond milk
• 1/4 teasoon chili powder ( I used Espelette red pepper)
• 1 sprig rosemary
• Black pepper and salt, adjust accordingly.

Toppings:

Fried or roasted chickpeas, toasted pine nuts, ravioles (I used ravioles du Dauphiné)


INSTRUCTIONS

In a large pot, heat the olive oil and then brown your onions and garlic.

Add the leek and potatoes and and cook until the leeks soften.

Add the vegetable broth and bring it all to a boil and then turn down the heat to let it simmer.  Throw in the sprig of rosemary, add the almond milk and wait until the potatoes are cooked through.

Finally add the spinach and let it cook until it starts to wilt. 

Turn off the heat and let it stand.  Take out the sprig of rosemary before whizzing up the soup.



NOTE

I enjoy this soup simply on its own but you can add ravioles, fried chickpeas, pine nuts, etc.
You can adjust consistency of the soup by adding less or more broth as well as keeping it more or less chunky by controlling the blending time.
 

Roasted Pumpkin Ginger Soup

Ingredients: onion, cardammon seeds, ginger, Esplette red pepper, coconut oil, coconut milk, vegetable broth, roasted pumpkin

Ingredients: onion, cardammon seeds, ginger, Esplette red pepper, coconut oil, coconut milk, vegetable broth, roasted pumpkin

I didn't think I could have mishaps with my camera while taking photos of food that doesn't move, food that sits still, and no-motion food but just before the hols I broke my 50mm lens taking pictures of the the raw veggie makis —um, let's just say I had two left feet while jumping over my very still food set.   Then, today my camera somehow fell out of my hand and took a dunk into the soup before splashing everywhere and all I could recall was orange patchy blotches everywhere. 

Clumsy, clumsy me, and a very lucky, lucky me as I had a protection filter that actually did what it was meant to do, protect my lens—close call.   We are all cleaned up now.

Soups are the thing for me lately.  I'm purging myself from refined sugar, dairy products, wheat, and alcohol this month so it's just easier for me to keep a big batch on hand and heat it up whenever I want.   Besides, it's less hassle when I don't have to think about what to eat myself.  Thinking for the three others in my family is plenty enough for me.  Wouldn't you agree?

I usually have a variety of dairy replacements at home but I don't exclude it.  We like to mix it up day to day so it makes it easier for me to snatch a bottle of dairy replacement out of the fridge when I am making something that normally needs some dairy product.  These days I'm just making more of a conscious effort of what I consume than usual.   I'm taking care of myself instead of neglecting myself.  I call it my period of restoration.   This is my jump start into the new year.

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Roasted Pumpkin Ginger Soup

INGREDIENTS//Serves 4

• 700 grams pumpkin, roasted with skin
• 1 small onion
• 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) knob ginger
• 2 cardamom seeds
• 1 tablespoon coconut oil
• 1/4 teasoon chili powder ( I used Espelette red pepper)
• 2 cups (500ml) vegetable broth
• 1/2 cup (100ml) coconut milk

Toppings:

Crushed sea salt, grilled sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin seeds, goji berries




INSTRUCTIONS

In a large pot, drop your coconut oil and add the onion, ginger, and cardammon seeds. 

Cook until the onion is brown. 

Add the vegetable broth.

Cut up your roasted pumpkin with the skin into chunks and add it to the pot along with the coconut milk and the chili powder.

Bring the soup to a boil.  Then turn off the heat and let it stand before you use your hand mixer or blender to liquify it.

Use a mortar and pestle and crush some sea salt, grilled sesame seeds, and pumpkin seeds.

Sesaon with this topping accordingly. 


 

Creamy Broccoli Soup Without The Cream

Creamy Broccoli Soup—and it's vegan.

Creamy Broccoli Soup—and it's vegan.

Slighty behind from all the holiday celebrations, nevertheless, Happy New Year!   After a fun-filled holiday in the south of France I returned to Paris only to meet "Flu"...

She was relentless and kept me homebound.  She had no plans for me to do a thing.  She wanted me all to herself.  So I obeyed and paid attention.   All I could do was to make offerings of fresh lemons and limes, slices of ginger, lots of honey, some golden powder named tumeric, and sea salt.    She wanted us to have a steam bath...many times.  I think I had 5, 6, 7, I dunno,  I was quite delirious really.  I can't say I much enjoyed bathing in my own sweat.  She finally realized that she overstayed her welcome and left me with some tidying up to do.

Back up on my two feet and I'm ready for some reboot!  I am thinking soups, soups, and more soups.  It's still brrr here and it's the best way for my family and I to get our veggie intake. 

Not being in the mood for dairy these days,  I easily replaced the cream and milky bit in this recipe with almond milk which was what I had on hand.  Give it a try.  I think you may be surprised.  You'll find a gorgeous creamy texture without the fat.  It's a light but very filling soup.   Keep healthy!   xx-M

Creamy Broccoli Soup

INGREDIENTS//Serves 4

• 1 broccoli head, cut into florets and roasted
• 4 cloves garlic, sliced, divided
• 3 tablesoon olive oil
• 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
• 1 tablespoon coconut oil or olive oil
• 1 carrot, chopped
• 1 celery stalk
• 1 onion, small
• 2.5 cups vegetable stock
• 1 cup almond milk


INSTRUCTIONS

In a large mixing bowl combine the broccoli, half of the garlic, olive oil, sea salt, and toss.

Pre heat the oven to 200° C ( 400° F°).

On a baking sheet spread out the broccoli and bake for 20 minutes until you see the tops get dark and toasty.

During this time, prepare the soup. 

In a medium size pot, add some coconut oil, onions, carrots, celery and cook until slightly softened.  Add your vegetable stock and bring it to a slow boil.

Add your roasted broccoli along with the almond milk and let it simmer until bubbling slightly.

Then turn off the stove and let it cool before whizzing it up in a blender or using your hand blender.

 

 

Homemade Fruit Popsicles

Fruit flavors, coconut milk, and agave syrup.

Fruit flavors, coconut milk, and agave syrup.

Early Sunday morning as I stepped out the door on my way to the market, I was greeted by brisk weather.  We had a heat wave just up until then so the contrast was startling.   A surge of anxiety immediately entered my head—Where did I store the children's down jackets?  Time to pack up the summer clothes (gosh, didn't i just take them out a month ago?)  And the comforters?...

Piña colada flavor.

Piña colada flavor.

At the market, my hoarding tendencies shone through and I quickly filled my bag up with as much summer fresh fruit as possible. We never know when that dark, grey nimbostratus cloud may appear and disappear.  If we are lucky, by next spring we will see sunshine again.  That was me heading into panic mode.

We love berries & coconut and mango coconut flavor.

We love berries & coconut and mango coconut flavor.

That all went away rather quickly.  The sun proved stronger and stuck around.  I came home with a load of fresh fruits, spent the following days making different flavor fruit popsicles, and eating them on our balcony in the sweltering heat with the kids.

We clung onto our last summer days together, sucking down our popsicles before heading back to school today.  After the long summer hols, people are back at work, and children are back to school.  Paris has resumed its daily rhythm.  In France, they call it la rentrée.  Wishing everyone a bonne rentrée!
 

Homemade Fruit Popsicles

INGREDIENTS//Yields 8 popsicles (2 ounce molds)

• Fresh fruit
• 1 cup coconut milk  
• 3 tablespoons agave syrup or maple syrup
• 1 lemon


INSTRUCTIONS

You will probably have to adjust the quantity of fruit and coconut milk to fill your popsicle mold. 

We chose to make different fruit flavors for each popsicle holder so we blended each concoction individually and then filled the mold.

Prepare your coconut milk by adding 3 tablespoons of agave syrup to it.  Stir to combine.

Choose a couple of pieces of fresh fruit (don't be afraid to mix and match!), add two tablespoons of coconut milk, and squeeze a couple of drops of lemon juice.  Blend it, fill your mold, and then freeze it.