COLOR ME DELICIOUS

Orange - Sacral Chakra Energy
Orange – Sacral Chakra Energy

As I sat looking at recipes for dinner, I realized everything had an ‘orange’ theme: carrot ginger soup, sweet potato noodles… mangoes and clementines for dessert.

What does this all mean?

It can mean nothing or it can relate to the 2nd, sacral chakra, located in the lower abdomen just below your navel. Often, wearing the same color clothing or eating the same color foods repeatedly is a subconscious indication of harmony or a need to balance a certain area of one’s life.

Here are a few traits often associated with the color orange. Sound familiar?

• Divine Feminine energy (as opposed to red – the Divine Masculine)
• Creativity
• Friendliness
• Going with the flow
• Open to intimacy
• Focus on relationships
• Manifestation

What colors are you wearing or eating these days?

Chakra Foods Color Chart

A tout à l’heure!  Om…

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It Wouldn’t be Summer without Watermelon

When we were kids spending the summer in Atlanta, my father used to take my brother and I to the farmers market to load up the car with fresh peas by the basket (excellent for opening up and having pea fights, btw) and ears of corn by the bushel.  As part of our chores we had the task of shucking, shelling, or peeling vegetables for hours at a time out on the hot balcony, but were often rewarded with ice cream and movies or my favorite, Six Flags amusement park.  Then one day, knowing how much we liked them, Dad decided to surprise us with 13 whole watermelons.  Maybe he got them on sale – 12 for $1, with the thirteenth thrown in like a baker’s dozen – but after we lugged them inside, he lined them up on floor all along the hallway outside the kitchen and ordered, “You kids better eat them dang watermelons!”  Dad hated to waste money.  “Thirteen?!?!” I cried.  They were good and we slowly worked our way through them, but after that summer, I did not eat another piece of watermelon for about 22 years.  As much as I loved the sweet, juicy fruit, I was all watermelon-ed out.  Uh, uh.  Not crossing these lips.

Fast forward to the 1990s… I can’t remember if I was tired of avoiding certain fruit salads, or whether I read how beneficial it was for me on the Blood-Type Diet, but I bought a small container full on a whim at the bodega on 76th & York, and tried watermelon again for the first time since that long ago summer. “Mmmm.  It’s delicious!” I thought.  All on it’s own?  How did we ever put salt on it and ruin this pure sweetness?  I resolved the fruit had to come back into my list of summer favorites.

Since that auspicious day in New York, I’ve broadened my watermelon repertoire to include salads and salsas, as well as margaritas and juice drinks.  And although most of us only think of watermelon as being extremely, um, watery and aiding hydration, it turns out its benefits include anti-inflammatory properties and reducing body fat.  It also helps cardiovascular function and is rich in potassium.  Donc, with this catchy little tune running through my head and a quarter of a watermelon calling my name from the fridge, I had to make something quick and lovely to wash down my almond butter and quinoa cakes.  Thank you, Vitamix!  On this gray, rainy day in Paris, why not blend up a glass full of summer deliciousness?

watermelon cucumber overhead

Watermelon Cucumber Mint Juice

1/4 seedless watermelon (rind removed)
1/2 cucumber, peeled (seeds optional)
1/2 cup loosely packed mint leaves
1 lime, juiced
Superfood boost: 1/4 – 1/2 tsp matcha green tea powder (optional)

Combine all in a high-powered blender. Using tamper if necessary to get the flow going, blend from low to high till smooth. Strain through a mesh sieve into a large bowl using a rubber spatula to scrape sides. Transfer back into blender container to pour. Garnish with cucumber slice and mint.  Serves 2.

It’s so refreshing. Enjoy!

watermelon cucumber plate

watermelon cucumber smoothie

For kicks and giggles, anyone from the US of “a certain age” should remember the ’80s commercial ditty, ‘Summer Summer fruits… Just wouldn’t be summer without them’.  Hmm… Nectarines.  I think I’ll go buy some nectarines.   😉

À tout à l’heure…

 

 

Eating Healthy on the Go

Flight attendants know every grocery store on every layover they’ve ever worked. Be it Sainsbury’s in London, the smallest bodega in São Paulo, or the closest Trader Joe’s in L.A., we know the perfect pasta sauce in Milan; the best beers in Belgium; plus the most delicious yogurt to buy in Paris (and every baguette, too). Our bags are teeming with enough food to get us through the most demanding flight and, often, a whole 3-day trip. And in the final moments on any given day on international flights returning into the United States, you’ll find us in the galley trading half an avocado for a cupful of cherries, or debating whether carrot sticks and lettuce are okay to bring in the country while stuffing our faces with forbidden fresh produce prior to entry on our way home.

Part of this behavior stems from the fact that we can only eat so much of the same airplane food day after day, trip after trip, and let’s face it: airport food courts don’t offer the healthiest choices. Another issue is that our companies don’t provide us with crew meals, except on long haul legs of over ten hours flying time. We are only entitled (eye roll) to eat what is left over after serving all our passengers. On dinner flights that can leave us with one dried up chicken breast to split between eleven crewmembers… or nothing at all if you’ve gone vegan, like me, and are caught out unprepared.

If you’ve read my blog before you may know I live in Paris, but I worked in New York. Then, to make life more complicated and because I’m sadistic crazy adventurous and missed Hawaii, I transferred to the west coast in March, so now I commute 11 hours by airplane to start or end my workday. That’s right. Some people get on the I-405. I get on an airplane for an insanely long time from Charles de Gaulle to Los Angeles, and in the hours before any given flight I’m always in a panic as to whether or not I’ll have enough food. Vegans eat a lot!

So in an ongoing dialog with one of my coworkers, she asked me to lay out a method to my madness. A means to sustain myself while on the go. Inspiration, perhaps, for her to incorporate more the vegan choices into her own lifestyle? One can hope. 😉

The easiest thing I tell her to do is to make friends with the produce department at her local store. Though Bridget and I both advocate organic, sustainable fruits and vegetables, many mainstream grocers like Ralph’s or Vons carry more and more organic produce than ever. While buying exclusively organic foods is not always conducive to keeping a low budget or for times when Whole Foods may not be within walking distance, get familiar with what’s recommended on diagrams like The Clean Fifteen.

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Fortunately these days, most stores carry several types of pre-washed, organic salad greens in bags that, when opened carefully, also double as a convenient bowl for eating on the go. Again, relax… Not everything has to be organic. Avocados and pre-cut pineapple chunks, for example, are perfectly safe additions to jazz up an otherwise boring salad or to enjoy as a sweet treat, and you’ll intake some healthy fats and vitamin C in the process. Add some packaged herbs, like basil or cilantro (coriander), as many of these are hydroponically grown and are generally free of pesticides. These dark, leafy greens have wonderful medicinal properties to aid digestion and bring sparkle to the palate. Always keep in mind it’s best to get ANY veggies in you than none at all.

In my lunch tote today you’ll find bananas (nature’s fast food on a stick), melon, quinoa cakes, almond butter, salad wraps, sugar snap peas (which I had to scarf before exiting Kauai), lentil chips, and lentil dip. And I’m almost never without the ubiquitous nuts and berries, a few raw protein bars, plus the ever-present dark chocolate. Okay, granted some of the items are cooked foods, but I don’t beat myself up over not eating 100% raw when I’m still getting great nutrition. It’s all about maintaining a healthy balance. At the next stop or as soon as I’m home, I load up on greens.

 

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Emergency rations

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Fantastic fruit plate

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In-room salad from the produce department at Waitrose in London. (Yes, I ate it all.)

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Cherries, pre-cut coconut, and dates. Dessert!

How healthy is this, you may ask? Well, I’m proud to say that I recently had my blood work done by a holistic DO, and save for a deficiency in vitamin D – most likely due to living in a northern climate and being cooped up in airplanes – my test results came back with stellar numbers. Since practicing this whole foods, plant-based diet, I have never felt better, cleaner, or lighter. As someone who used to live off 5-hr Energy Drinks and coffee, I no longer have the need or desire to drink either, because I get so much natural energy from foods that thrive in the sun. And by substituting dates or maple syrup as sweeteners, I killed the beastly cravings and eliminated processed sugar, too. The day I woke up and threw away all of the sugar in my cabinet was a day I felt empowered to take on anything. Now I can walk past the best patisserie and not want a thing. Oh, and I never get sick. It’s liberating to feel so amazing and know that it’s real because I’m in control of my health.

The beauty of all this is that you can achieve this same health, this same glow, with a commitment to yourself and a little dedication to honoring all that you can be. Contrary to the myth that “vegan is hard” or expensive or even extreme, it’s totally doable and the benefits far outweigh a daily regiment of doctor appointments and pricey pharmaceuticals. If I made it work on a ridiculously abnormal schedule where my body doesn’t know day from night or night from day, so can you. Using these tips I describe above, small improvements add up to big change. Remember, you are worth it. Get busy living and live life deliciously!

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with nor do I receive compensation for any of the products mentioned or shown in this post. All photographs except The Clean Fifteen graphic were taken by me and you have my permission to share them. Please eat healthy and spread the word.

À tout à l’heure…

Les Champignons de Paris

Champignons de Paris at Bio C'Bon
Les champignons de Paris at Bio C’Bon

A few months ago through the magic of Facebook, I read a story about a little appreciated gem in the organic food bins of Paris. Les champignons de Paris, to be more specific.

A cross between ordinary button mushrooms and porcini, these fungi are grown in old limestone mines deep within some of the abandoned Métro tunnels on the fringes of the city and are readily available throughout the year, thanks to the mushroom farmers who maintain the tradition.  The problem is, there are only about six growers left, according to the article, yet to my happy surprise one day I realized the bin in my local Bio C’Bon organic grocer was labeled ‘Champignon de Paris’.  Was it a marketing trick or were these the real deal?  Hmm… The label on the box reads their origin is Périgord, from the Aquitaine region of south central France, not exactly from the spooky catacombs of City of Light.  But did it matter when the mystique was so tempting?  I had to find out, so in the basket they went.

Champignons de Paris
Champignons de Paris

Searching for a recipe to showcase my treasures, I settled upon one inspired by Giada De Laurentiis’s citrusy mushroom salad. Using ingredients available year-round, I like the lift that lemon gives in winter. During hot summer months, I find the celery especially cooling, and the salty character of celery makes a refreshing vegan replacement for the parmesan cheese called for in the original recipe. Fresh and fragrant basil lends an earthy note.  Overall, the texture and crunch make a great combination.

If you can find celery in the shops with leaves attached, you’re so lucky!! You’ll be able to enjoy an intense flavor of the vegetable, which compliments the mushrooms without overwhelming them. Plus, you’ll enjoy its wonderful cleansing properties, which help to flush the system of toxins while aiding digestion, and the lemon juice will alkalize your blood and bring your body into balance.

I do not receive any endorsements for recommending a product, but unless you possess the knife skills of a Ninja, consider investing in a simple, Japanese mandoline to make the job go much easier and infinitely faster.  Just please, please, please mind your fingers! Mushrooms are a bit too small to use with the plastic guard that comes with the mandoline and Kevlar gloves aren’t quite practical for the job.  The bulbs whittle down quickly and could leave you in for a shock unless you’re careful, but the fine slices are worth the effort.

Champignons de Paris - salad bowl
Champignons de Paris – into the salad bowl

 MUSHROOM CELERY SALAD

  • 1 lb fresh mushrooms (button or a mix of button and cremini mushrooms), stemmed, cleaned and sliced very thin
  • 1/2 Cup celery, tops reserved (optional), sliced very thin
  • 2-3 T parsley, chopped
  • 2-3 T basil leaves, julienned
  • celery leaves, chopped (optional)
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 Cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • sea salt, cracked pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients except lemon juice and olive oil in a medium salad bowl.  Toss to combine.  Pour on the juice and oil, season, and continue to toss until all ingredients are well incorporated.  The acid in the lemon juice will begin to break down the greens, so consume as soon after mixing as possible.  (You can also leave the prepared vegetables ready in the bowl, as shown above, and wait to combine with the oil and juice at the last minute before serving.)

Excellent when served with a simple grain, like the baguette Giada suggests, or keep it gluten-free and use as an accompaniment to cooked quinoa.

Good and good for you, I think this simple but delicious salad is just about perfect.

Champignons de Paris - salad toss
Champignons de Paris – salad toss

 

Champignons de Paris - dinner
Champignons de Paris – dinner is served

Let’s eat! Bon appetit!

À tout à l’heure…

Do you know the muffin (wo)man?

If I lived a nursery rhyme, I’d be the Muffin (wo)man who lives down Drury Lane.  This is different from a fairy tale, mind you, because then I would have surely been born as a princess, and waltzed around a beautiful castle with lots of custom made shoes that fit my size 12s…. but in nursery rhyme land, muffins are a passion of mine.  Muffin tops be damned!  Breakfast.  Lunch.  A quick snack before boarding the aircraft.  I can’t eat enough of them.  I probably dream of opening a bed & breakfast home one day just as an excuse for testing a new muffin recipe each day of the week.  Lemon, zucchini, green tea, chocolate ricotta.  You name it, I’ll blend it into a batter and bake it.  Favorite accompaniments are peanut butter and homemade lemon curd, sometimes together!  Either way, I find them easy, versatile, and endlessly flexible with my mood or the market of the day.

When I cruised through Place Maubert’s farmers market this week and spied a display of super end-of-season, perfect strawberries, I reserved a few and tossed them into this batch.  I hope I did them honor.

Strawberry Basil Muffins

  • 2 ¼ cups Flour, (may substitute up to half with whole wheat or oat flour)
  • ⅓ cup Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon Baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon Salt
  • ½ teaspoon Ginger, ground
  • 2 Eggs, beaten
  • ½ cup Canola oil*
  • ½ cup Milk, (may substitute half milk, half plain yogurt)
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  • 1 cup Strawberries**, sliced
  • ½ cup Pecans, toasted, chopped
  • about 2 tablespoons Basil, chopped
Servings/Yield: 11 standard muffins
1. In a large bowl, sift together dry ingredients: flour through ginger.
2. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a wire whisk till fully incorporated. Add the oil, milk, vanilla and whisk till blended.
3. In three steps, add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and blend until everything holds together. Do not over mix. Fold in the sliced strawberries, nuts, and basil.
4. Drop batter into prepared muffin tin (or paper liners) and fill the cups 3/4 full for a nice, tall muffin. Bake 15-18 minutes at 400˚F / 200˚C. Let cool on a wire rack for 5 mins, then remove muffins from the tin and place onto rack to finish cooling.
Notes
* If you’re not shy about butter, you can also switch out the oil for butter. Use 1 stick (8T) + 3T, melted and cooled.
** Strawberries can also be macerated in balsamic vinegar. Simply wash and slice berries and place into a bowl, adding about 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar. Stirring occasionally, allow to marinate as you prepare the recipe as normal, then strain the berries prior to adding to the batter. It’s okay if some of the marinade liquid makes it into the batter, but no more than 1 tablespoon. If you like, you could reserve the marinade to use later with a salad dressing.
A whole batch of deliciousness
Strawberry basil muffin

À la prochaine….

COOKING FOR ONE (OR TWO): Chicken and Chocolate

I am an expert at cooking for one (or two).  I’ve spent over twenty years “forced” to eat out for a living while I worked around the world as a flight attendant and rebelled against dining out on my days off at home.  I want to eat good food.  I want to know where it came from and how it’s prepared.  And I’ve been single for a long time.

Cooking for someone special (um, moi + toi) does not have to come from a box or a take-away container any more than one can realistically expect to dine out each and every day whether on the road or down the street.  Cooking for one (or two) can be nourishing and interesting, and the sense of accomplishment is almost as tasty as the results filling your swollen belly.

After my long hike through the wrong Enchanted Forest  and the train ride back from Brussels to Paris, I arrived home wanting for comfort food so I turned to my Go-To chef: Jamie Oliver.  I ♥ Jamie.  His recipes are straightforward and flavorful, without a lot of frou-frouey ingredients meant to impress when all you’re craving is a fantastic home-cooked meal.  If you make a mess of things with your inferior knife skills, that’s okay!  As anyone who’s ever watched one of his BBC cooking shows can tell you, Chef Jamie often brusquely rips off a handful of herbs or rough chops a vegetable before tossing it into a pan.  Sometimes his combinations sound a bit wonky (How do you like my Brit speak?) but the flavors marry into an explosive symphony on the taste buds.  I don’t eat a lot of chicken, but I will eat Jamie Oliver’s Chicken in Milk.

Chicken and MILK, you say?

Yes, Chicken and milk!  I know it’s weird, but you must give it a try.  Just as the chef describes, it is so much more with the addition of lemon, sage, and garlic.  Then as the dish bakes, the roasted garlic softens into a killer spread perfect for dipping hunks of sourdough baguette into this lovely sauce where the milk and lemon get together and curdle up into a tart, almost cheese like, perfection.  Who knew?

OK, Jamie Oliver endorsement aside, chicken is easy to obtain and easy to cook but to roast a bird for one (or two) sounds not only intimidating, but a tad excessive.  Enter: the cornish game hen or poussin.  The smaller bird is sold whole and often trussed, so the only thing left to do is to dress it up and load it into the oven.  Super simple.  And since we all know everything tastes like chicken, it is adaptable to almost any combination of ingredients so go bold and experiment.

Thoughts: in America, we sit down at the table with the words of our mothers etched in our consciousness to clean our plates, but once you add a side of veggies and a good loaf of bread to soak up all those delicious juices, you should fill up quickly.  Hence, the cornish hen, though perhaps intended for one but suitable for two or leftovers for a cook-free night, is ideal.  Whether you stop at half or share it with someone you love, you’ll still have room for dessert.  Buy the best quality, preferably organic, bird you can afford and taste the difference an unaltered, naturally good ingredient makes.  Then finish your meal with a sampling of rich, chocolate truffles that you make from scratch and you’ll not only love yourself, but be loved as well.

Let’s eat!

Cornish Game Hen and Milk

Recipe adapted from Jamie Oliver 

  • 1 2lb organic cornish game hen
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • olive oil
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 cup fresh sage, leaves picked
  • zest of 1 lemon (shaved with vegetable peeler works fine)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 5 cloves garlic, skin on
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
Preheat the oven to 375°F/190ºC, and find a snug-fitting, oven-proof pot or a cast-iron skillet for the cornish game hen.  Season it generiously all over with the salt and pepper, and fry it in the butter plus a little bit of olive oil, turning the chicken to get an even color all over, until golden.  Remove from the heat, put the game hen on a plate, and throw away the oil and butter left in the pot.  The browned bits will leave you with tasty sticky goodness at the bottom of the pan, which will give you a lovely flavor later on.
Put your cornish game hen back in the pot with the rest of the ingredients arranged around the bird, and cook in the preheated oven for approximately 1 hour, basting with the cooking liquid whenever you remember.  The lemon zest and juice will split the milk, making a sauce that is absolutely fantastic.
To serve, pull the meat off the bones (While you’re at it, why not save the bones to make a wonderful stock?) and divide it onto your plate(s).  Spoon over plenty of juice and the little curds.  Serve with steamed green beans and good, crusty bread.
Chocolate Truffles
Recipe for Truffes au Chocolat by Suzanne McLucas, A Provençal Kitchen in America, 1982
  •  8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate (60-70%), cut into pieces
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa
  • 3 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 3 egg yolks, beaten slightly
  • 1/2 cup sweet unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • unsweetened cocoa, finely chopped nuts, or whatever your heart fancies for decorating
 Place chocolate pieces, cocoa in top of double-boiler; melt over medium heat.  Do not let water boil or touch the bottom of the upper bowl.  Remove from heat, stir the mixture till smooth.  Slowly add the egg yolks a bit at a time, blending well with a wooden spoon.  Working quickly, add the butter one or two pieces at a time, beating until butter in incorporated and the mixture is smooth and shiny, then add the cream and blend.  At this point you may divide the ganache and add any flavoring you like to taste, such as rum-soaked chopped raisins, chopped candied ginger, or nuts.  Cool, stirring once or twice, then refrigerate until firm, about 1-2 hours.
Once firm, scoop chocolate by the teaspoonful and form into balls with your hands.  Roll them in cocoa to coat.  Suzanne writes that the cocoa gives them the special taste by which these truffles are known, but I can’t stop there and roll mine in everything from ginger to melted chocolate, sprinkled with sea salt.  You are only limited by your imagination!  Refrigerated, they will keep well for weeks, though I doubt they will last that long.
À la prochaine….