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Tag Archive: summer

Mon Grand Voyage (and a Spin on Ratatouille!)

June 28, 2013 Leave your thoughts Print this page

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One thing a lot of people don’t know about me (in the blogosphere, at least) is that I LOVE France. When I first went when I was 11, well, je suis tombée en amoureuse. I usually dislike big cities, but there was something about Paris’s narrow streets and petits marchés that made me think otherwise. I’ve been back twice since then, and every time I leave, I find myself wanting to return.

I’ve taken French in school since the second half of third grade, but I’m nowhere near fluent. I can write pretty well, but when confronted with an actual human being, I clam up! I always worry I’m going to say the wrong thing and wind up completely insulting whoever I’m speaking to.

I’m tired of being afraid and want to be able to have a real conversation in French. So…I’m going to France for a month to get brave and learn! This time, I’ll be going to a suburb of Nice called St. Laurent-du-Var, where I’ll be graciously hosted by my homestay mother. I’m really excited and extremely nervous, too!

One thing I’m looking forward to is the food. I’ve had plenty of Parisian fare—duck confit, chocolate mousse, and the like—but I want to taste what else is out there. Since it’ll be July, fresh fruits and vegetables should be plentiful; hopefully I’ll get a chance to visit one or seven marchés en plein air and eat so many tomates cerises I’ll become one. I also foresee mountains of olives in my future, as well as whatever else I may be able to sample.

For the duration of my trip, I WILL NOT be eating squeaky clean by any stretch of the imagination. I may look into doing a Whole30 challenge or something akin to it when I return, but while in France, I’m going to enjoy myself. No, I’m not going to eat a massive croissant at every meal, but I’ll certainly try to have a little taste of a variety of different breads, pastries, and dairy products.

Fortunately, I won’t have to leave the extension of my heart my laptop at home, so I’ll be able to take lots of pictures and update you guys on what I’m up to. Hey, maybe I’ll post a recipe or two, too!

In anticipation for my upcoming voyage, I made ratatouille, probably the tastiest mixed vegetable dish of all time. 

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I’ve been in French classes for over SIX years now, and the only movie I’ve ever watched is Ratatouille. At this point, I’ve probably seen it at least four or five times in French and six or seven times in English. And every time after I watch the movie, I want that idealized plate of vegetable goodness Disney so perfectly displays.

To make this dish a little more satiating, I melted a bit of raw Dorset cheese on the top. Don’t call the paleo police! If you’re lactose intolerant and/or avoiding dairy, feel free to take out the cheese…but if you can eat it, I highly recommend adding it for extra tang and creaminess.

This recipe is a breeze to make. All you need are some veggies, olive oil, a couple of dried herbs, and a big baking dish. If you’re sick of eating meat for dinner, this is a great way to work something vegetarian into the mix!

My recipe is adapted from this one.

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At least a half an hour before you want to bake your ratatouille, slice two small eggplants into 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch rounds. Use whatever you can find, whether it be graffiti, Japanese, or globe.

Liberally salt the eggplant rounds and let them sit on a baking sheet or cutting board until assembly time, at least 30 minutes. This is to help some of the water get out and make your eggplant tender, not mushy and gushy.

Next, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut two medium-sized zucchini into 1/4-inch rounds and two large bell peppers into 1/4-inch rings. Maybe it’s just me, but I always eat the ends of the peppers after I slice them.

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Set the sliced veggies aside. On the bottom of a 13 x 9 baking dish, mix together 14 ounces of tomato paste or plain tomato sauce (about 1 medium can), 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 chopped small onion, 2 thinly sliced cloves of garlic, and a generous pinch of salt. With the back of a spoon or a small spatula, spread it out so the bottom is completely coated.

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To assemble, put one piece of eggplant with two or three slices of zucchini and a slice of pepper. Keep going until you run out of space or vegetables…whichever comes first.

Sprinkle the top with 2 teaspoons each of dried thyme, basil, and oregano, a good crack of black pepper, and an additional tablespoon of olive oil.

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Cut out a piece of parchment paper to fit snugly atop the dish. Stick the ratatouille in the oven until the veggies are tender and beginning to curl around the edges, about 45 to 50 minutes.

If you don’t want cheese, you can stop here. If you’re opting for the dairy, top the ratatouille with your desired amount of cheese (for me, about 10 tiny squares cut from two slices worth) and broil until completely melted, about 5 minutes.

Serve immediately with a large fork and a hungry belly.

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Next time, I’ll make more…since we had no leftovers. Oh well, at least it was tasty!

What’s your favorite French dish? Leave me a comment on Facebook and let me know!


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Crab Cakes and Citrus-Infused Mayo (gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, paleo)

June 23, 2013 Leave your thoughts Print this page

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Friday was officially my last day of school, and I couldn’t be gladder. No more geometry. No more boring-as-heck marketing class. No more finals or projects or tests. I’m relieved…for now. I still have two books to read and annotate, two French workbooks to complete, and three chapters of an AP Euro textbook to complete before school starts again.

Oh well. For now, I’m just enjoying the fact that I don’t have to return to my “favorite” institution for two months. 

I spent my first few hours of freedom at a pool party with all of my friends. We’re teenage girls, so of course there were a few rounds of truth or dare and some Disney sing-alongs. I also had quite a good time eating fruit and flaunting my new swimsuit that I’m a teensy bit obsessed with.

Enough about me. Onto the food!

In the summertime, both my family and I prefer to have lighter, less meat-dense meals. Don’t get me wrong—we love our pork, lamb, and beef—but when the weather gets warmer, you don’t necessarily want to be digging into a rich, saucy stew every night.

If you’re looking to mix up your weekly dinner rotation, these crab cakes are a great addition. They took me maybe forty or so minutes to prepare and tasted DELICIOUS. There were also plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day, an added bonus.

So, without further ado, let’s get started!

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You’re going to need some mayonnaise for this recipe to help hold the crab cakes together. I really dislike the way the store-bought stuff tastes, so I always make my own. This mayonnaise is EXTREMELY easy to prepare and takes less than ten minutes to whip up…and the difference in taste is unbelievable. 

In the bowl of a food processor or blender, process 2 large egg yolks, the juice of two limes, 1 1/2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of dijon mustard, a good pinch of salt, and a large crack of black pepper until smooth, about 1 minute. 

With the machine running, SLOWLY drizzle in 3/4 cup of extra-virgin olive oil OR liquefied coconut oil. It should take 3-4 minutes to get all of the oil from the measuring cup to the machine, so make sure you keep your pouring at just a trickle. This will really help to emulsify all of the ingredients and make it super creamy.

I like my mayonnaise on the lighter, creamier side, so I only add 3/4 cup of oil. If you like a denser, thicker mayo, add more oil as necessary.

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To make the crab cakes, preheat the oven to 300 degrees and line a baking sheet with tinfoil. You’ll be cooking the cakes in batches, so you’ll need to keep the first batch warm while the second batch is going. 

In a medium-sized bowl, break up 1 lb of lump crab meat into small chunks and remove any shells if you find ‘em. 

Pour the crab into a large bowl and add 1 chopped yellow bell pepper, 1 chopped scallion, 1 whisked egg, 6 tablespoons of the citrus-infused mayonnaise OR 6 tablespoons of store-bought mayo and the juice of a lime, 2 tablespoons of creole seasoning (for the recipe I used, click here), a generous pinch of salt, and 3 tablespoons of coconut flour. With your hands, squish and squeeze all of the ingredients together, really making sure to get everything well-incorporated.

Form the crab mixture into 6-8 cakes, depending on how large you want them.

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In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt 1/3 cup of organic palm shortening. If you don’t have or don’t like palm shortening, you can use regular coconut oil, ghee, or even avocado oil in its place. Whatever you do, DO NOT use olive oil. Its low smoke point will lead to oxidization and lots of splatters.

When the fat is completely melted and shimmering, add half of the crab cakes to the pan. Cook undisturbed until dark brown on that side, about 6 to 8 minutes, then flip to cook for 5 to 7 minutes longer. 

Once crisp and darkened on both sides, transfer the finished crab cakes to the prepared baking sheet and pop in the oven. Add more fat to the pan if necessary, and repeat the same steps with the remaining crab cakes.

Serve with some of the citrus-infused mayo or a generous slice of ripe avocado. 

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What are you most looking forward to this summer? Leave me a comment on Facebook and let me know!


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Toasted Coconut Ice Cream and Blondies (gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo)

June 17, 2013 Print this page

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So, where have I been for the past week? 

Mars. I’ve been wallowing in piles of schoolwork…or procrastinating on it. I’m currently plowing through my remaining days of freshman year—which means next week will consist almost entirely of final exams.

In preparation for these thrilling tests, my teachers have decided to administer a variety of ADDITIONAL quizzes and assignments. My second-to-last week of school has been my most stressful, unfortunately.

Thankfully, my awesome friends were there to help me through. Over ice cream and blondies, we laughed, predicted our futures via MASH, and determined who would get each senior superlative. Nothing could cure my stress better. 

If you have something tension-inducing coming up in your life, whether work, school, or family-related, I highly encourage you to partake in the same delicious endeavors. 

You can get the coconut ice cream recipe here and the blondies recipe here.

Let’s start off with the ice cream. It’s actually very easy to make…it just takes a while. I promise you it’s worth it!

You have two options when making the ice cream: you can make your  own nut milk, or you could purchase it from the store. It takes longer if you make it yourself, but it doesn’t include any added carrageenan, sugar, or chemicals. If you use store-bought milk, you’ll save a day, but you might be getting some unwanted additives in your ice cream. Your choice.

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If you’re going the DIY-route, soak 1/2 cup of cashews in about a cup of water overnight or for at least 12 hours. This process will not only soften the cashews, but also allow for phytic acid to be neutralized.

What’s phytic acid? I’m no nutritionist (yet)…but here’s a great article informing you all about what it is, what it does, and why you should avoid it. Long story short, it prevents minerals from being absorbed properly

Once the cashews are nice and soft, strain them and put them in a blender with 2 cups of water. DO NOT reuse the soaking water! Blend until no nut particles remain and the mixture takes on the appearance and consistency of milk, about 4 to 5 minutes.

You can also use almonds or even hazelnuts instead of the cashews, but you’ll have to press the milk through a strainer or cheesecloth before you use it. With cashew milk, there’s no needIt’s ready to go as soon as it’s blended.

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Now, it’s officially ice cream-making time. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and pour 1 cup of shredded, unsweetened coconut onto a baking sheet.

Bake until golden brown and fragrant, about 6 to 8 minutes. Give it a stir once or twice to make sure browning is even.

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Meanwhile, in a saucepan, heat 2 14-ounce cans of full-fat coconut milk and 1 cup of either the prepared cashew milk OR your choice of nut milk over medium-low heat. Once it just starts to bubble, remove it from the stove top and pour in the toasted coconut. Put a lid on the saucepan and let it steep for at least an hour, preferably two.

Pour the ice cream base through a strainer and squeeze the milk-infused coconut to get as much liquid out as possible.

In another saucepan, heat 4 whisked egg yolks and 1/2 cup of raw coconut nectar OR raw honey over medium heat until warm to the touch, about 5 minutes. Then, slowly whisk in the ice cream base, using a ladle to do a little bit at a time. 

Keep whisking the mixture until the back of a spoon wipes clean, like this…

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Once you obtain a clean streak, turn off the heat and stir in 3 tablespoons of arrowroot powder and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. Transfer the mixture to an airtight plastic container and refrigerate overnight to cool down.

To ice-creamify it, simply pour all of the ingredients into an ice cream machine and follow the manufacturer’s instructions to process. Five minutes before you think the ice cream is done (it should be thick, but still a tad liquid-y to the touch), pour in 1/3 cup of mini chocolate chips…if you want.

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Scoop the ice cream into a large glass dish and freeze overnight to get a true “ice cream” texture. You could eat it right out of the machine, too, but I like my ice cream more on the solid side.

Let defrost at room temperature for 15 minutes before digging in. This will ensure you have a creamy, not icy texture.

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To go with the ice cream, I made blondies, one of my favorite childhood desserts. They’re a breeze to make, too!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, the magic baking number of awesome. Line an 8 x 8 baking pan with tinfoil and grease well with some ghee or coconut oil.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together 6 tablespoons of melted ghee and 1/3 cup of coconut sugar until well-combined, about 3 minutes. Feel free to replace some or all of the ghee with coconut oil; the blondies will just have a less buttery taste as a result.

To the ghee and sugar, add 1 whisked egg, 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, and 6-8 drops of liquid stevia, if you want it sweeter. Keep mixing for another minute or two.

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To the wet ingredients, add 1 1/2 cups of blanched almond flour, 1 tablespoon of coconut flour, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, and a good pinch of salt. Mix until no clumps of flour remain, about 3 to 4 minutes.

With a spatula, stir in 1/3 cup of mini chocolate chips. You could also add shredded coconut, chopped nuts, or a handful or two of dried fruit, too!

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Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick comes out clean in the center, about 25 to 30 minutes depending on whether your oven runs hot or cold. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then lift up using the tinfoil along the sides. Peel it off, then slice yourself up some bars.

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Nom nom nom.

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So close to freedom I can LITERALLY TASTE IT!!!

What do you do to relieve stress? Leave me a comment on Facebook and let me know!


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