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Healthy


Man cannot live on chickpeas alone. In their naked cooked state they can be a little unappetising. But they remain a healthy, cheap food.  Roasted in olive oil with a little salt and they become delicate and nuanced. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.  They make a great snack and a good sidekick for an evening aperitif. Babies love to munch on them too!

 

This couscous dish stands well alone or as a hot or cold accompaniment to fish or meat.

Ingredients

  • 1 can cooked chickpeas
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 cup couscous (uncooked measure)
  • 2 tablespoons golden sultanas
  • a handful of fresh vine tomatoes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • handful of chopped fresh basil

Plus 1 quantity spice mix (see below)

Spice mix (vary as desired) also see a previous post using a spice mix…

  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground all spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon walnut oil
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • a little sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350f.  If using canned chickpeas rinse them well in cold water and drain in a colander. In the meantime, using a bowl big enough to handle the chickpeas, make the spice mix blending the ingredients together with the oils. Coat the chickpeas with the spice mix and let sit for a few minutes.  Spread the coated chickpeas evenly in a single layer on a roasting pan shaking them around a little to make sure the spice mix is well distributed. Sprinkle a little salt over them. Roast for 20-25 minutes until the skins start to become papery and dry.

While waiting for the chickpeas make the couscous – follow the instructions on your particular brand of couscous!  While you wait for the couscous to fluff up, set it aside.

For the tomatoes, plonk them a in a bowl of boiling water for a minute, then plonk them in a bowl of cold water for a minute. You will then be able to drain them and easily remove the skins. (This works well for peaches too). Cut the tomatoes into quarters or halves depending on their size and set aside.  Submerge the sultanas in a little warm water for a few minutes too. Then drain them and set them aside. This will plump them up nicely.

Once the chickpeas are roasted to your liking take them out of the oven and allow to cool a little so they don’t break apart too much when handled. Then assemble your dish. In a serving dish mix the warm couscous with a little butter, add the chickpeas, the sultanas and the tomatoes. Sprinkle with some torn up fresh basil and serve warm or cold.

 

Last year, while discussing an upcoming trip to Lebanon with a Paris friend, I waxed lyrical about Lebanese food and how I had discovered a great website and cookbook author Anissa Helou. It transpired that he knew Mme. Helou, having met her at a food symposium and they had kept in touch. He put me in contact with her and she very kindly sent me a list of her favourite Beirut food destinations.  Thrilled, we embarked on our trip clutching a printout of her recommendations. I had her book Modern Mezze and now I have been to Lebanon a couple of times it has really come to life for me.  It’s a concise repetoire of classic mezze detailing how to go about making the dishes that make up standard middle eastern fare giving a litle background and explanation for each one.

Falafel are the go-to middle eastern food as far as most western palates are concerned yet I’m guessing most of us assume they’re all made from fried chickpeas and a little tahini and that’s that. I was surprised to learn that Eygptian falafel are the original and they are made only with fava beans while Syrian and Lebanese ones contain chickpeas as well.

I opted to bake these so that they would be easier to digest for an 11 month old. Frying them is undoubtedly better – crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

PS: Garbanzo or chickpea? Wikipedia discusses….

Note: Ideally use dried beans and soak them overnight in cold water with 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda. However, canned beans will do, just drain them well.

Recipe taken from Anissa Helou’s Modern Mezze

Ingredients

  • 100gr chickpeas
  • 200gr broad beans/fava beans
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 50gr coriander sprigs
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely ground pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (if using dried beans)
  • sea salt

Making

Drain the beans and rinse them well. Put them in a food processor, add the rest of the ingredients and process until they form a fine paste. Transfer to a large bowl, season and allow to chill in the fridge for 30 minutes or so.

Pinch off enough mixture to form small balls and do so until you have 20-25.

If frying heat vegetale oil to about 5 cm depth and when bubbling hot drop the balls in for 3-4 minutes until golden brown and crispy. If baking place on a baking tray in a preheated oven (375 degrees F) and bake for about 20 – 25 minutes.

Mop off the excess fat and serve hot or cold with a tahini dip.

Eating in the couscous restaurants of Paris, there are very often carrot salads on the menu – simply done, crunchy barely cooked carrots with a simple cumin and parsley dressing.  Heading over to a friends for lunch one day I wanted to make a hearty salad that wasn’t composed entirely of green leaves and tomatoes so I decided to use roasted beets, red peppers and ‘just cooked’ crunchy carrots as the base and see what seeds and spices could be used to make an equally solid dressing that could stand up to the root veggies.

My husband had recently brought home various spices and mysterious looking bags of foodie treats from his Tunisian bachelor party. Tunisian flavours come most often from the use of the following spices as well as the all important harissa;  garlic, anise, saffron, cinnamon, caraway, coriander, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, ginger, white pepper, black pepper, red pepper and cloves.  Tabil or galat dugga are two typical Tunisian spice mixes commonly used.The toasted spice mix for this salad uses North African inspired tastes but it’s easy to mix and match pantry staples to come up with your own flavours to mix into the dressing.

In a large bowl, mix the roasted, chopped beetroot, the sliced carrots, the chopped pepper, the sultanas and the cucumber.  Fold the toasted seed mix into the oils and the other dressing ingredients and mix well. Toss the salad in the spicy oil mix for a couple for hours before serving so the flavours can envelop the vegetables.

Ingredients

  • 2 beetroot  – boiled (or used pre-cooked) and roasted for about 20 minutes
  • 4 carrots -steamed just so they lose their raw edge but are still crunchy
  • 1 red pepper – chopped
  • 1 red onion – diced
  • 1 tablespoon golden sultanas
  • half a large cucumber sliced and diced

For the spice mix and dressing: toast the seeds you’re using in a dry pan until fragrant and just starting to ‘jump’. Then crush roughly in a pestle and mortar.

  • 2 tablespoons walnut oil
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon zaatar
  • half a teaspoon salt (if not using zaatar)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • half teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • half teaspoon cinnamon
  • half clove of fresh garlic – crushed
  • a couple of pinches of white pepper

In Paris variations of ‘caviar d’aubergine’ are becoming ubiquitous. Any kind of aubergine dip is pretty amazing so the more the merrier. Traveling around Lebanon and Jordan recently meant a lot of it was consumed so I figured it was time to start working out what all the different mezze were and how they could be made at home.  The cuisine of the Levant is a favourite of mine. Its nutty, spicy flavours along with an approach to eating that is truly Mediterranean being wonderfully family oriented lazy, lengthy grazing.

A middle eastern favourite dished up  in one way or another from Greece to Israel to Beirut, moutabal is most often served as one of many cold mezze. Commonly referred to as Baba ghanoush, in Syria and Jordan this is almost always called moutabal and baba ghanoush is an aubergine salad not the smoky creamy sesame infused dip that is moutabal. In most other middle eastern countries it’s baba ghanoush. Many menus will have both listed to add to the confusion. Baba ghanoush is actually a salad of roasted aubergine flesh with lemon juice , tomato, hot peppers, garlic and onion.

The key to the moutabal flavour is  chargrilling the aubergines until the skin is about to fall off – otherwise you miss the amazing smoky flavour characteristic of this staple mezze. Nonetheless even oven roasting the aubergines will get you a garlic spiked dip that’s a great alternative to cheese and crackers…


Ingredients

  • 2 medium/small aubergines
  • 1/2 clove garlic (crushed)
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 250gr (2 small tubs) plain yogurt

Making

Roast the aubergines in tinfoil (prick them all over beforehand) for at least an hour until soft and mushy. Let them cool then take off as much of the skin as you can. While they’re cooling mix the tahini, yogurt and garlic together with the oil. Take the cooled aubergines and with the skins off mash the flesh up as best you can giving it a swirl with a hand mixer if necessary but no need to make it a puree. Mix in with you yogurt mix and add salt to taste.  Serve with warm flatbreads.

To make baba ghanoush, add one finely chopped tomato, hot green pepper and onion to the roasted aubergine flesh and stir in. Crush 2 garlic cloves with a teaspoon of salt and add to 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 of lemon juice. Stir the liquid into the vegetables with a tablespoon of finely chopped fresh mint and garnish with parsley to serve.

(Cookbooks and references – ‘Modern Mezze’, Anissa Helou/’Classic Lebanese Cuisine’, Kamal Al-Faqih/’The Petra Kitchen’, Jordan)

Poached pears are a simple staple. Something that can be turned into a dessert, a drink, a breakfast or a tart. Easily prepared and stored in advance of a dinner party or kept for a few days worth of breakfasts, they’re something to keep in mind for those last minute panics when people are coming for dinner and you feel like doing something impressive with those pears you forgot to eat….


Store the poached pears in the fridge for a few days to be used in desserts such as pear and almond tart or with vanilla ice cream or keep them for breakfast – tossed with a little honey, natural yogurt and maybe some muesli. Otherwise use in puree form to add to a glass of champagne or prosecco for a sweet and spicy aperitif.


What you’ll need

4 pears – ripe and firm so that they’ll hold their shape.

200 grams sugar

1litre water

2 tablespoons maple syrup

1 teaspoon cinnamon

a few cloves

vanilla essence

Other spices and flavourings can be added as you see fit – star anise, tonka beans, dried fruits, orange peel, lemon…

What to do

Peel, core and quarter the pears. Heat the water until the sugar has dissolved. Add the pears and simmer on a low heat. Add the cinnamon and maple syrup and the spices you choose. Cover the surface of the water so the pears stay submerged (use some baking parchment as a layer for example). Simmer until the pears are soft but still firm enough to retain their shape. Test with a fork. Remove when done and let cool.

It’s been a while.  It seems that pregnancy and cooking are not always a good combination. Raging hormones have temporarily replaced my taste buds with those of a hungover university freshman and I had no inclination to cook or eat anything healthy or strange or exciting let alone write about it. No offense to college first years.. . But for the last few months I have wanted only simple starchy foods (preferably with ketchup).

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Now I’m finally getting back to eating normally even coaxing the lentils out of the dark corner where they have been forced to hide with all the other remotely healthy foods in the pantry.

So as a transition, we have breakfast muffins. Amazing gooey, fruity, yummy muffins. These are sticky and so moist they keep for days. Relatively healthy with no butter they are a good breakfast treat and a great brunch addition.

Baking without using butter may seem entirely wrong to some people and let’s face it baked goods with real butter have a little bit of heaven in them so they have their place in the world. However, you can still have your cholesterol and eat it too…so to speak…

High cholesterol reared it’s ugly head recently in my family and I feel obliged to find ways of banishing le buerre from my parents household. Banish. Not substitute.There is a difference.

So, when baking there are lots of ways of not using butter. It’s just another way of baking. Vegetable and nut oils, fruit compotes, yogurts, buttermilk all can play a part. It just needs different measurements, a little experimenting and a lot of tasting. No problem really.

These muffins use nut oil and honey/maple syrup instead of regular granulated sugar and butter. Maple syrup is preferable for taste I find but both give a nice sweetness.

Muffins

Fruity breakfast muffins

Ingredients

In one bowl :

2 x 125gr tubs of vanilla yogurt (or plain)

3 tablespoons nut oil

2/3 eggs

2 tablespoons dark rich genuine maple syrup (or 3 tablespoons honey or a mix of both)

200 gr fresh or frozen berries ( a full regular coffee cup will do either)

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

In another bowl:

230 gr flour ( mix whole wheat, plain, spelt, rye…as you wish)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons raw oats (optional)

Making

Mix the wet ingredients  first. After mixing the dry carefully fold the dry into the wet – but do not over mix the batter.

Pour into muffin tin – makes about 12 medium size muffins (fill each almost to the top for generous sized muffins)

Bake for about 20 – 25 minutes or until a knife comes out clean

December is here, root vegetables reign, and the pomegranate is back until end of January. Fast, after work suppers are hard to manage without relying on fast food or processed produce. Keep a few staples in the kitchen to back you up for when you feel like a healthy supper that doesn’t taste like a trip down diet lane. Dried algae are an affordable way of nutritionally boosting your dishes. Seaweeds are an excellent source of minerals in general and are easily added to soups, vegetables and stews.

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Plus seaweed helps render pulses and beans more digestible. Just add a little to them as they are cooking.

An all-in-one bowl of smoky goodness – this veggie bowl is simple, filling and fast. One of my pantry staples has become a Mexican chipotle powder from the London Borough market that’s pretty fiery but a great way of livening up a lentil stew without adding fatty bacon or pancetta à la version française.

Extremely low in fat and high in fibre yet behaves like a potato, the celery root (celeriac) has a lot going for it nutritionally with a strong taste that is great for soups, purées or for making healthy chips.  Looking like a cross between a radish, a turnip and a potato, it’s a bit of an ugly duckling root vegetable that can stand up to cooking holding it’s shape and flavour well.

In this bowl the chipotle is nicely absorbed by the celeriac and the eventual sprinkling of feta at the end combats the strong flavours and adds a touch of cool creaminess.

Kombu, edible Japanese seaweed, is extensively used in and it can be traced back to the year 797. One of its benefits is to render pulses and beans more digestible. Often it is cultivated locally too, the kombu I use is from western France.

The feta is a nice creamy salty cooling factor that is best added at the last moment.

IMG_3084

Ingredients

1 cup yellow lentils

1 cup chopped fresh celeriac

1 diced shallot

1 organic stock cube (optional)

Scant ½ teaspoon of chipotle powder

3 cups water

1 or 2 strands of kombu seaweed (optional)

1 teaspoon nut oil

2 tablespoons crumbled feta

Making

Peel and chop the celery root/celeriac. Heat the nut oil and lightly sauté the shallot before adding the lentils and the celeriac to the hot pan.

Add the chipotle powder and ensure the lentils and celeriac are well coated in the oil and the smoky powder.  If using, add the stock cube here, crumbling it slightly. The flavours will infuse here in the heat.

Then add the water, add the kombu, bringing everything to the boil, stirring well.  Then reduce the heat and simmer for about 35-40 minutes.

Serve with the feta crumbled on top.

Healthy brownies are all the rage. Adapted from a cookbook dedicated to cooking with agave nectar by Ania Catalano,  Heidi’s infamous black bean brownies have taken the food blogs by storm.  Now we’ve got red bean azuki brownies. The beans replace the flour, give texture, lend their crumbly nature and render something sinful slightly less so. Can a sweet red bean and rice bowl become a brownie? I don’t see why not. These are light and crumbly and best served chilled. Definitely a winner, a chewy dense chocolaty brownie with none of the guilt…or very little…

IMG_2222

Ingredients
200g bittersweet chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
150g unsalted butter
200g cooked adzuki beans
3 tablespoons dessicated coconut
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4  eggs
300ml maple syrup and/or agave nectar (use about 2/3 maple syrup and 1/3 agave – agave is very sweet)

Chopped nuts would be optional


Making

Melt the butter and chocolate over a low heat and mix in the vanilla essence, salt and then the cocoa powder. At the same time put the beans and the coconut in the food processor and pulse until crumbly. Separately, beat the eggs and the maple syrup mixture until fluffy. Fold the bean mixture into the chocolate then the chocolate mixture into the eggs and sugar. Pour the resulting batter into a well-greased 9 inch brownie tin and bake for about 30 – 40 minutes until done. Chill before serving as they get quite crumbly. Serve dusted with icing sugar.

Small, red and eaten extensively in China and Japan,  azuki beans are often eaten as a good luck or celebratory dish in Japan being cooked with sticky rice to form the red rice dish sekihan. Boiled with sugar they form the red bean paste commonly used in Chinese and Japanese desserts and are used to make teas, ice cream and soups.

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Their use in sweet treats got me thinking about the almond milk in the fridge and how a sweet and salty rice bowl would be pretty good for the red beans waiting on the shelf. The wild rice and quinoa give a great nutty base and absorb the almond milk and coconut to give a fluffy bowl with great texture and flavour. I also had them in mind to replace the black beans in Heidi’s infamous black bean brownies that have taken the food blogs by storm but that’s for the next post.

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Like all legumes and beans, they are very good for you, full of minerals such as zinc, magnesium and folate and unlike most dried beans you can get away without soaking overnight before cooking them.  They are also easier to digest then other beans. If you do find the time to soak them in cold water for a few hours, rinse them well before cooking.  They also  retain their shape during cooking which makes them prettier to serve.  This recipe would also work easily with black beans, plain rice or other grains.

Ingredients

1 cup red azuki beans (cooked)
2 cups quinoa
1 cup wild rice
1 shallot, diced
1 clove garlic diced
2 tablespoons strong tamari
1 teaspoon butter
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
11/2 tablespoon dessicated coconut
1 cup almond milk (or more depending on how “liquidy” you like it)
1 cup water

Making

The beans will take at least an hour so keep this in mind or have them cooked the day before. To cook them put 1 cup of beans with 2 cups or more of water and bring to the boil. Let simmer at a relatively high heat for about an hour or maybe more until you can easily mash them with a fork.

The rice and quinoa mix will take only about 25 minutes. In a pan melt a little butter and add the chopped onions stirring until translucent. Add the diced garlic and the grated coconut mixing well, lowering the heat to keep it from sticking. Pour in the quinoa and rice stirring so that they absorb the buttery onion mix.  Slowly add a little of the almond milk ensuring the quinoa and rice are coated. Then add the water bringing the rice and quinoa to the boil. Lower the heat and let simmer for about 15 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed. At this point add more almond milk stirring well. Add one tablespoon of tamari. When all the liquid is absorbed add more almond milk and tamari and take off the heat. Set aside until the beans are ready. When the beans are done, drain them in wold water to rinse off any excess starch or cooking liquid then return them to their pan adding 2 tablespoons of maple syrup. Toss around on the heat then serve over the fluffy  rice and quinoa. Serve immediately.

Retain a little almond milk to pour over as you finish cooking and are about to serve.

Add the beans and drizzle with tamari and a little maple (or agave) syrup.

Nothing too original in this recipe but Paris picnicking season is well underway and there is always call for a Tupperware container of some kind of “salad”. It’s always fun too to raise Parisian eyebrows with random combinations of sweet and savoury.  It took me a long time to figure out that the exotic wheat berry as spoken of by North American cooks and foodies was in fact the humble blé as served in the work canteen. They’re  another great grain to add to the mix if you’re sick of quinoa/millet/rice etc…

apricucumbering2

apricucumbering1

Ingredients

- 1 generous cup wheatberries
- 5/6 small fresh apricots
- 1 tablespoon tamari

- 1/2  teaspoon brown sugar
- 2/3 tablespoons nut or olive oil
- half a large cucumber
- 1/2 clove garlic diced
- salt and pepper to taste

Making

Heat a tiny amount of butter or oil in a pan and toss the wheat berries in it until they’re coated. Add 2 cups cold water and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and remove once all water has been absorbed and the wheat berries are soft to the bite. Rinse the grains under running water in a colander to remove the starch and stop cooking. Set aside in a large bowl.

Remove the pits from the apricots chop both these and the cucumber small pieces. In a small bowl mix together the oil, garlic, tamari and sugar. Toss the apricots and cucumber in this mixture until fully coated.

Mix the apricot cucumber mixture into the wheat berries.

Leave to marinade a little, let the flavours develop or chill until it’s time to picnic!

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