Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Weathering life, one simple soup at a time

In truth, I can't begin to describe the turmoils our lives are currently in. Remnants of previous turmoils, and new turmoils, waves of them, which I weather the best I can. Amidst angst and chaos, I have found myself at a loss for words in this space. This holiday week, I so wish I was coming to you with profound words and an elaborate scrumptious dish worthy of the greatness of love and life.

Yet humbly, all I can bring to this virtual table, is a few sparks of joy that have grounded me, made me remember to be grateful for love and life. And a simple soup to warm the soul.

Today, I feel grateful for...

... the overwhelming generosity and support of friends and family who truly care
... a dinner interrupted for a dance with my son
... this post by lovely Shanna, so true and inspiring
... the San Gabriel mountains, serene arms enveloping and watching over us in our new home
... a glimpse of Pablo's curls with the sun shining through, and his smile too
... your interest, patience, encouragements, comments & support
... every single challenge parenting has brought into my life
... our meals, pillars of our family life
... the warmth of our family's Thanksgiving celebration (I am making this casserole, and these rolls)
... screams of joy at the sight of the first Christmas lights
... the ability to know and share myself, to love and be vulnerable...

Pablo and I have the great fortune to be going to visit friends in Paris for a couple of weeks in December, a much needed break that is as highly anticipated as it was unexpected. I look forward to sharing with you (here, on Facebook and Instagram) the inescapable good food experiences it will entail...

May you have a joyful Thanksgiving, may your souls feel as nourished and full as your bellies...

Pumpkin celeriac soup (cardamom infused coconut milk base)

Prep time 20 min
Cook time: 50 min

Age for babies: 6 months + (coconut milk can be replaced with vegetable broth, milk - formula or breast - can be added in at the end for texture. Can be a soup or a puree).

1 small sugar pie pumpkin (about 3 pounds)
1 medium celery root
1 1/2 cup coconut milk
4-5 pods of cardamom
1/2 tsp salt
Pepper to taste

Preheat the oven at 350°F.

Wash the pumpkin, cut it in half. Scoop the seeds and strings out.
Place face down in a baking dish, add 1/4 inch of water. Bake for about 45-50 minutes, until very tender.

Meanwhile, peel the celery root, cut it up in small pieces. Place in a pan with the coconut milk and cardamom pods - which you can place in a little cloth bag if you have one so you can remove them easily when the celery is cooked, or as I did, you can just fish for them after :-).
Cover, bring to a light boil and simmer for 20 min or so, until the celery is very soft and ready to be pureed.

Remove the cardamom pods. When the pumpkin is ready, scoop out the meat into a blender. Add the salt, celery root in coconut milk and blend until very smooth, adding a few tablespoons of hot water to obtain your preferred consistency.

We ate it with these apple Gruyere muffins. A comforting meal indeed.

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Pumpkin fondue, & seeing the pretty mornings...

"C’est un joli matin", Pablo said at the breakfast table this morning. It is a pretty morning. 
And it is. And he can see it.

There will be moments of struggle today, of drag, of annoyance and frustration. And yet, it is a pretty morning. We are grounded in it.

I am so inspired and enlightened by his wonderful capacity to be in the moment, to really look at the world, no matter what the struggles of the day might be or have been.

What a resource that is. A tool to build resilience, for an expanding life.

Some years ago, I was scuba diving in a beautiful spot in New Zealand. To be away, to travel, to experience life and the ocean, what a privilege. It was a cold water dive, one of my first, and so as we sank down to admire the underwater landscape, the dancing kelp, the vibrant colors, I noticed I was very cold. My whole body was cold. And it made it very challenging to see the beauty around me. It took great effort, to shift my focus.

So often, our immediate needs cloud our vision. Crises cloud our vision. For survival, I suppose. Yet the key to seeing that pretty morning, was acceptance. Stop fighting the cold, and accept it. Accept needs (whether met or unmet). Accept the struggles without judging them. And the clouds will part, to reveal the pretty mornings, that exist no matter what.

One can always count on struggles, and on pretty mornings.

I have been working on that, lately. Or rather, realizing how very bad I am at accepting my own struggles, while I am able to meet Pablo's struggles with acceptance and empathy (most of the time!). My own struggles fluster me, make me feel inadequate. In short, grumpy :-) And stuck.

So here’s to the day where I will be better able to accept and embrace my struggles for what they are: life’s journeys, tools, resources for learning and growing.

At least, Pablo has helped me to not let my struggles blind me from those pretty mornings, those lovely seconds of joy or contentment or beauty inexorably present even on the worst of days.

I have very much been struggling to get back to meal planning ever since the move and recent upheavals in our lives. I have been so very thankful for my mother’s help during this time. And if one thing has remained constant through these past couple of months, it is our meals.

Our family meals have been our guaranteed moments of connection, of being grounded and present. Instead of a burden as one might see it (to prepare a four course meal in spite of chaos, rush or stress), it has been a resource. Something that has helped us all through the difficult times. Moments to grab and rescue us from the whirlwind of projections, fears, anxieties and plans, moments to keep us tethered to life, to the serenity of the here and now... which is all there really is.

So... for this week’s menu, scroll down, and if you have time for some fun family food, try this pumpkin fondue we shared on Halloween night with dear friends visiting from France. It was enjoyed by all ages :-)

I will try for a post a week for the time being, as I make time to work on my book / cookbook. I thank you so very much for your patience and loyalty. 

Pumpkin Swiss Fondue

Serves 4 per small pumpkin

Age for babies: The mashed up roasted pumpkin with a bit of cheese on it (alcohol-free recipe) could be given from 8 months on.

1 pumpkin
1 tbsp coconut oil or ghee
1 clove of minced garlic
2 cups of Swiss Fondue
Country bread (if you're in the mood for making bread, this easy country loaf from Local Milk is awesome)

Wash the pumpkin, cut off a top "hat" and remove the seeds and threads inside with a spoon. 

Preheat the oven at 350°F.

In a small bowl, mix coconut oil (or ghee) with minced garlic. Rub the inside of the pumpkin with it.

Place the pumpkin (with hat on) in a baking dish and bake for about 45 minutes, until flesh is tender. (This can be done a few hours ahead)

Meanwhile, a couple of options for the cheese fondue:

1- Go the very easy quick route as I have done on Halloween night this year, and buy a Swiss fondue mixture (Trader Joe's has a very good one with a mix of Emmenthal, Comté and Gruyère Cheese). Reheat per instructions.

2 - Make it yourself with or without alcohol. I like David Lebovitz' recipe here, especially the suggestion of replacing white wine with lemon juice and water for an alcohol free version. 

10-15 minutes before the meal, pour the Swiss fondue inside the pumpkin, replace the pumpkin hat and bake another 10 minutes at 350°F.

Cut up "mouillettes", country bread sticks, place the pumpkin in the middle of the table, and let the dipping begin!

When the cheese is gone, cut up the pumpkin and enjoy with some simple crisp romaine lettuce in vinaigrette. 

Onto the week's menu...

A slight modification on the menus from the past: Pablo now goes to daycare three mornings a week, and I shall list the content of his bento box-like lunchbox.  

Cheeses of the week: Following French tradition, I always offer a little bit of cheese at the end of every meal, between the main course and dessert. Rotation this week: creamy Brebis (sheep), sharp cheddar, Rustique Camembert (cow), goat gouda.

Desserts: At lunch, I offer a fruit yogurt (or plain yogurt with fresh fruit), but at night, I prefer sticking to plain yogurt (regular homemade* whole milk, sheep’s milk, goat's milk and Greek yogurt for extra protein) to avoid too much sugar before bedtime.

If you would like a particular recipe on the menu, feel free to contact me! (I marked with a * the recipes that will be the topic of upcoming posts).


Pablo's Lunchbox: 
Smoked salmon, avocado & quinoa salad, cooked zucchini with vinaigrette, goat gouda, tangerine.

Goûter (4pm snack) – Chocolate pudding

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Baked artichokes with shallot vinaigrette
Main course: Mixed vegetable jardinière with pork belly


Pablo's Lunchbox:
Boiled leeks with vinaigrette, hard boiled egg, cherry tomatoes & blue potato salad, cheddar, pear.

Goûter - Apple

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Broccoli spinach soup
Main course: Braised endives with ham au gratin (quinoa flour béchamel)


Picnic Lunch  
Fennel spinach watercress savory cake, lentil shallot salad, comté cheese, grapes

Goûter – Pear

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Pumpkin celery soup*, apple cheddar muffins
Main course: Trying these lentil cakes from Cannelle & Vanille


Appetizer / Finger Foods: Authentic Greek Salad
Main course: Flaxseed tortilla quesadillas with mozzarella and creamy mushrooms

Goûter - Yogurt with fresh figs

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Watermelon radish (with butter and salt)
Main course: Butternut zucchini Spanish tortilla, with butter lettuce


Pablo's Lunchbox: 
French-style grated carrots, tuna rice salad with tomatoes and beans, cheese, persimmon

Goûter - Tangerine

Appetizer / Finger FoodsPea salad
Main course: Pan-fried leg of lamb with flageolets beans.


Picnic Lunch
Persian cucumber sticks, sardine ricotta pea sandwich, cheese, fruit.

Goûter - Apple compote

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Cream of cauliflower
Main course: Sauteed shrimp with lime over red quinoa


Mixed quinoa salad with crudités, proscuitto.

Goûter - Blackberries & apple

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Green beans cauliflower herb salad
Main course: Dutch oven roasted chicken, roasted sweet potato fingerlings

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