My Plate in France

I just returned from vacation in France, where I visited Loire Valley and Bretagne. Lots of sun-filled days were spent exploring 14th and 15th century castles, picnicking under trees, buying fresh veggies and fruits from markets and of course indulging in French cuisine. What I love most about French food is the pureness and simple complexity of it. Roasted ripe cherry tomatoes presented over a palette of greens. Simple ingredients that we can find in our garden, yet with an unexpected twist making it seem somewhat complex. Presentation is not a strength of mine, but after returning from France, it’s something I’d like to play around with, sometimes, just for fun.

Here are a few pictures from my travel eats.

The cotton candy was amazing! It was served with a fresh raspberry syrup and a droplet, as the syrup was poured over the candy, it zigzagged in and out of little air channels, quite mesmerizing to see.

What are your favorite dishes from your summer holiday?

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Recipe Share: Adapted Chickpea Burgers

This week’s recipe was taken from the blog, Take a Bite out of Life.

I stumbled across this blog while searching for a recipe with chickpeas. I’m happy I did, because the blogger not only has some delicious cake recipes, but also has great recipes for those with dietary restrictions. Definitely worth checking her out.

Her chickpea burger recipe has a wonderful spicy kick to it. It’s a delicious and healthy burger alternative that’s packed with protein. It’s also low in fat and cholesterol. Serve warm with lots of delicious herbed yogurt (plain yogurt mixed with your favorite herbs), your favorite salad or veggies mixture, pita bread and little squeeze of fresh lemon.

You can find the recipe here.

The only things I did differently:

  • Instead of oats – I used 1/4  c of corn flour (ground maize)
  • I omitted the oregano, flaxseed, curry powder and siracha sauce instead I used instead: salt, pepper, cumin and paprika
  • I added one egg and 2 TBSP of fresh lemon juice
  • I added freshly chopped chives (1 tsp), parsley (1TBSP) and basil (1tsp)
  • Instead of baking, I pan grilled each burger on each side for 6-8 minutes .  (The following day, I baked falafels with the leftover mixture and it was yummy, so both methods work well).

My Favorite Pasta Salad Ever!

Yesterday I had a small 4th of July dinner, per usual tradition. For dinner, I served rump steak cuts marinated in balsamic vinegar and molasses, summer squash sautéed with onions and pasta salad, followed by a dessert of red velvet cake, served with summer berries. Meat has slowly worked its way back into my life after a month without it.

Back to the menu, I must say, the pasta salad was really the true star of the show. The meat and zucchini– only backup dancers. This salad is so refreshing and light. It’s chock full of delicious flavor and has a light citrus taste. This morning I actually contemplated eating it for breakfast with a slice of red velvet, but then realized that would leave me without lunch.

This recipe is really simple to make, hope you enjoy it. And for those back home, hope you had a fun 4th!

 

What you need.

  • 200 grams / app. 1/2 pound of pasta (I used whole wheat fussili)
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1/2 of a bell pepper, diced
  • 2 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1/4 of a red onion, minced
  • juice from half a lemon
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/8 – 1/4 c of mayonnaise
  • 1/4 tsp of chives, chopped
  • 1 TBSP of fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 c of shredded parmesan
  • paprika, sea salt and pepper, to taste

 

  1. Boil pasta according to directions, strain, and run under cold water until cool.
  2. Place pasta, avocado, peppers, tomatoes, onions, carrots, in a bowl. Pour lemon juice on top and gently mix.
  3. Mix garlic and mayonnaise in a separate bowl. Add to salad and gently mix, evenly distributing sauce.
  4. Mix in fresh herbs and cheese, then season to taste.
  5. Place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

 

 

 

Summer Strawberry Cake

May was an unusually cold month. I’m so happy the weather has warmed up. The temperatures have been in the 90’s F/ 30’s C for the past week. Call me crazy, but I’ll take a sweltering heat over blustery frost any day. This week, in an attempt to cool off, the hubs and I headed down to the swimming pool and did a couple of laps and splashed around. Something about being in water always makes me insanely hungry, even if I just splash around in the pool. So when we arrived home, my husband whipped up a delish and quick meal of whole-wheat and quinoa pasta with sautéed mushrooms, lemon, onions and cream. It was so good and we were so starved that no pictures were taken.

After dinner, we went outside to sit on the terrace. While outside, we started to smell the most delicious aroma of baked apple pie. This made me crave baked goods and I couldn’t shake the urge to bake. What else is any sane person supposed to do on one of the hottest days of summer, but crank up the oven? I quickly found a seasonal dessert recipe on Smitten Kitchen and off I went, stirring, mixing and pouring, to make this beauty (pictured below). So worth it!

If you love strawberries as well as the crunchy and buttery taste of shortbread cookies, then this recipe’s for you. It’s essentially a large shortbread cook with strawberry jam. The original recipe calls for way more strawberries than I had on hand. I was still rather pleased with the results.

What you need.

  • 12 – 15 Strawberries (or double it for strawberry packed goodness), stem removed, halved
  • 6 tbsp (85 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

How you make it.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C) and butter a 9 inch (spring-form) round baking dish.
  2. Cream butter and sugar, add in egg, vanilla and milk.
  3. Mix dry ingredients and add them into batter.
  4. Pour mixture in prepared dish.
  5. Place strawberries cut-side down on top of the batter (they’ll sink in as they bake)
  6. Bake 10 minutes and then reduce heat to 325 (160 C), bake another 45 – 55 min. Allow to cool on a wire rack before serving.

Serve with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or au naturale. I think I’ll try this with blueberries and strawberries the second time around. Enjoy!

Sunday Berry Compote Pancakes

How I love Sundays. Even if it signals the end of the weekend, it truly is my favorite day. I usually wake up slowly, catch up on the news, read and enjoy lounging around in my pajamas until noon. Sometimes I dare to even take a stroll to the bakery to buy a moist loaf of tresse/challah bread. You’ll rarely find the Swiss strolling around or running errands in their PJs, especially on Sunday. I’ve realized over the years this is something very American. The Swiss on the other hand dress to the nines on Sunday. I just don’t see the point of changing into clothes, if my mission is to buy bread and go back to my lazy Sunday program.

This week, I decided to make pancakes and lounge around the house all morning. I wanted rich, fluffy pancakes reminiscent of the buttermilk pancakes my grandmother used to make me on her cast iron griddle when I was a child. I remember the way the syrup would literally disappear into the feathery stack of pancakes. *drools*

Since I didn’t have any buttermilk and am not too impressed with the milk and vinegar alternative, I used plain yogurt. I topped my pancakes with a mixed berry compote, butter and maple syrup (no need to hold back). The result was rich, fluffy, slightly tart, delicious pancakes.

Makes 8 – 9, 4 – 6 inch pancakes

What you need.

For pancakes:

  • 1 c flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 8 oz  of plain yogurt
  • 1 TBSP of oil (e.g. canola, sunflower, flax)
  • possibly, a small amount of milk (or water) to make the mixture slightly thinner

For compote:

  • 1.5 – 2 c of frozen mixed berries
  • 1/4 c water
  • juice from a fresh lemon
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 1/4 c raisins

How you make it.

Pancakes:

  1. Preheat your oven to about 100 F/ 50 C and place a pan/casserole dish with a cover inside your oven.
  2. Mix all your dry ingredients. Make a well in the middle.
  3. Mix all your wet ingredients, stir them into your dry until combined.
  4. If the mixture if really thick you can add a little milk or water to thin it out slightly. I added about 4 TBSP of milk.
  5. Heat a pan with oil, once hot spoon out your pancake mixture into the pan. Flip the pancakes when many bubbles form on top.
  6. Place cooked pancakes in casserole dish, to keep warm before serving.

Compote:

  1. Place all of your ingredients in a sauce pan, simmer on low for about 15 minutes.
  2. Serve warm over pancakes.

Enjoy!

Swiss Miss Apple Cake

The other night, my husband and I were invited to a delicious fondue dinner at our friends’ place. We were in charge of the dessert. I wanted to make something, seasonal, slightly sweet, melt-in-your-mouth moist and somewhat traditional. My husband suggested his family’s Apple Cake recipe. This recipe was handed down to him by a very special person, who  had a special talent of taking the most simple ingredients and making something amazing.

Once this cake goes into your oven, you instantly feel warm and cozy. If you enjoy the aroma of  tangy citrus and sweet apple wafting throughout your home, then this next recipe is for you. It’s ridiculously easy to make and looks beautiful!

This recipe was made using the metric system. I’ve included English measurements in parentheses.

What you need.

  • 270 grams flour (2 c flour)
  • 200 grams softened butter (1 c, 6 TBSP)
  • 270 grams sugar (1 & 1/3 c sugar)
  • 10 grams baking powder (2 tsp)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 4 eggs
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 apples (you won’t use two whole), peeled, cored, sliced in quarters (not too crunchy)

How you make it.

  1. Preheat oven to 355 F (180 C)
  2. Butter a cake pan (about 9 inch in diameter) and flour the bottom
  3. Mix dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and salt
  4. Mix butter and sugar together until creamy
  5. Mix in eggs
  6. Add dry ingredients to your batter and gently mix them in
  7. Finally add in your lemon zest and pour into prepared baking dish.
  8. Take 5 apple quarters (keep the rest for yourself and enjoy a lovely snack) and make little slits in them.  This helps them cook faster and makes for a pretty design.
  9. Place your apples core-side down, “peel” side-up in the cake batter, so that they are lying just above the surface.
  10. Bake for about 45 minutes. If it browns too rapidly simply cover loosely with aluminum foil. Use a toothpick to test whether it’s baked thoroughly.
  11. Cool on a wire rack and enjoy!

Mini-Batch of Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookies

Tonight I had a craving for crisp, chewy, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate chip cookies. As I was taking out some ingredients from my fridge, I suddenly realized I didn’t have enough butter to make a dozen cookies!

There’s a reason for my bare fridge. You see, I have this weird rule that 1 week before going on vacation, no food should be purchased for the household. Actually, it’s kind of a dorky fun challenge I give myself to use up all remaining food only using what is available. So with 3 TBSP of butter, my dreams of chocolate chip cookies and milk, were suddenly becoming just that, a dream. Then it hit me, why not try to make a tiny batch of cookies. Double the pleasure and half the guilt that comes with the desire to inhale a dozen cookies! Challenge accepted!

Luckily for me, I found this lovely recipe that yields 8 cookies (adapted from from Cake on the Brain Blog, which adapted the recipe from Small Batch Baking for Chocolate Lovers by Debbie Maugans).

Since, I like a nuts in my cookies, I adapted the recipe by adding pecans. In addition, I broke many cardinal rules of baking while making these:

  • My dough came out kind of dry, probably due to not adding enough molasses (see notes below). As a result, I added *hides in shame* a splash or two of milk to my batter.
  • I didn’t have any unsalted butter, so used *still hiding in shame* salted butter.

To my surprise, no matter how many wrongs I made, they still tasted and looked delicious! My husband said “these are the BEST cookies you’ve ever made”!

What you need:

  • 3 TBSP butter (app. 45 g), softened
  • 3 TBSP packed brown sugar*
  • 3 TBSP white sugar
  • 1 TBSP beaten egg **
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 c chocolate chips
  • 1/4 c coarsely chopped pecans (optional, if you opt out use 1/2 c chocolate chips)
  • Maybe a splash of milk, if your dough is too dry

How you make it:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F (app. 190 C)
  2. Mix flour, salt, baking soda
  3. Cream butter and sugars
  4. Add egg, mixed well, add flour mixture
  5. Add vanilla
  6. Mix in chips and nuts
  7. Scoop out about 8 TBSP and place them on a baking sheet.
  8. Bake for 10 – 13 minutes (I have a convection oven, it took my cookie a little under 10 minutes).

*On brown sugar, I live in Switzerland and don’t have packed brown sugar at my local grocery store, I simply mix molasses with my white sugar. It’s a bit of trial and error. For this recipe I used 1/4 tsp of molasses. My batter still didn’t have the desired moisture level, hence adding the splash of milk.

**Reserve the rest of the egg and use it for something else, like pancakes, which I’ll be making tomorrow morning.

Moral of the recipe, nothing comes between me and cookies! Hope you enjoy this recipe!

Rustic Oatmeal Cookies

Around the holidays there are three things I love to do at home: blast cheesy holiday songs, light candles and the bake cookies. The smell of oven-baked cookies, just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. To me, the holidays are not about opening up a ton of gifts or running around like a maniac doing last-minute shopping (even if that’s what I’ll end up doing). I love the calmness, coziness and togetherness it brings about.

Last week, we had a fondue dinner at friends, who live in a cozy chalet-style apartment, nestled in the Alps. Nothing screams holiday and cozy quite like being 1,300 meters above the sea, overlooking the snow-covered mountains. It was also the perfect excuse –not that one needs one, to bake cookies. Oatmeal raisin cookies are one of my holiday favorites. I adapted this recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. These cookies have a rich nutty texture and slightly sweet taste. They are a nutritious and wholesome cookie alternative. The addition of sunflower seeds are optional, but they do add a nice crunch and subtle, salty taste.

What you need:

  • 4 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 1/4 c white sugar
  • 1/4 c brown sugar (or in my case about 1/4 tsp of molasses mixed with white sugar)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 c of whole wheat
  • 1 cup of rolled oats
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • little less than 1/4 c of milk
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 c raisins
  • 1/2 c chocolate chips
  • 1/4 c sunflower seeds

How you make it:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 F
  2. Cream butter and sugars with an electric mixer, add egg and blend well
  3. combine flour, oats, cinnamon, salt, and baking powder
  4. Add milk and dry ingredients to the batter and blend together
  5. Stir in vanilla extract
  6. Bake cookies on an ungreased baking sheet for  10 – 13 minutes or until golden brown and transfer to a cooling rack
  7. Put it in a cute holiday container and spread the holiday cheer!

Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday season filled with family, friends and amazing food.

Trash Vegetable Stock

I haven’t blogged in almost 3 months and I return with a post like this!! Apologies, I know the name of this post is a bit gross. I hope you aren’t conjuring up images of me picking through my trash.

Well actually, I am using “trash” to make a delicious soup, however, it’s “saved” trash. When I cook, I keep all of my carrot peelings, potato skins, onion skins, leek leaves, etc., in a container/freezer bag in my fridge. Generally, after about 2 weeks, I have enough scraps to make a soup stock.  This soup stock is cheaper than what you’ll find at your grocery store, healthier, it’s eco-friendly, as it offers an alternative for those who can’t compost, and best of all it’s delicious! Moral of the story, your trash could really be your treasure!

This won’t be a formal recipe, but a foundation recipe for your next soup stock. The measurements don’t need to be perfect, so just throw in what you have and work your magic.

What you need.

  • Veggie scraps – I used about 1 liter of carrot, onion, leek and scallion scraps
  • 2 – 3 carrots
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 2 large onions cut in half (keep the peel on)
  • 6 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
  • 1 cup of fresh mushrooms or 1/4 cup of dried mushroom soaked in 1 c. warm water
  • 4 TBSP of olive oil
  • 8 – 10 fresh parsley sprigs
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 c white wine
  • 8 cups of water
  • salt and pepper to taste

How to make it.

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F (app. 205 C)
  2. Place all carrots, onions, potatoes, garlic and fresh mushrooms (if using dry, keep them on the side) in a roasted pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Put the pan in the oven and roast for about 45 minutes or until veggies are nice and brown. You may have to turn the veggies a couple of times to make sure it roasts evenly.
  3. Scoop the ingredients into a stockpot. Add your scraps and remaining ingredients (excluding the salt and pepper). Bring the contents to a boil, then partly cover and reduce heat.
  4. Cook until veggies are soft (abt. 45 minutes)
  5. Strain the mixture, pressing the vegetables to extract the juice.
  6. You can season your stock now or when you’re ready to use your stock later, this is really up to you.
  7. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

This made about 3 quarts (little less than 3.5 liters). Add this stock as a base to your soups and enjoy. Now you’ve really turned your trash into a treasure.

Have you tried your hand at making soup stock?