Friday, January 24, 2014

A pear almond spelt cake, and tuning in to ourselves

Attunement has been on my mind lately. You know, how tuned in we are to the outside world, to the feelings and state of mind of those around us,  and to our own, and how to strike that balance.

I happened to have trained myself since childhood to attune to others really well. This has turned out to be both a blessing and a curse. A blessing, because I want to and am often able to really see and feel the people close to me, to give them acknowledgement, empathy and understanding. But also a curse, because basically, I have attuned to others to make sure I do whatever it takes to please and be loved. In short, to fill a void, a fear within.

Especially since Pablo was born, I have been - slowly - learning to attune to myself again. And I have a long way to go. One place it can begin though, is at the table. I did a lot of emotional eating when I was younger, and as I have been trusting Pablo to listen to his own body and what it needs, I have been practicing to do the same.

I have seen him go through phases of eating more meat, or more greens, or more fruit, or more dairy, admiring his ability to instinctively know what his body needs at a particular time. I have seen him not finish a piece of chocolate cake (and the boy does love chocolate) because his body said it was enough.  I am trying my very best to run no interference with what his body tells him. I offer a variety of real, tasty foods, he chooses what and how much to eat.
This week, he had a stomach bug (oh what fun ;-) our menus got reduced to rice, carrots and apples...). Once again, I noticed he knew what he needed, he knew when to drink water, when to rest and sleep.
This self-attunement is such an invaluable resource.

Ultimately, in every area of life, my goal is for my son to listen to himself, to his true inner voice. I choose to trust him to do so, so he will trust himself. I don't want him to do what I want or say in order to get my approval. I want him to know I trust him so he will discover what is right and what works for him. I want him to make his own decisions rather than follow what others may say (peer pressure) or do what he thinks others want (overachievement from insecurity), in order to obtain their acceptance or validation.

Sometimes, my attunement to other people's feelings is deafening, so much so that I can't even hear or listen to myself. It can trigger such insecurities that it backfires and I can't be emotionally available to others. So I'm working on ways to get grounded again, back to myself. The balance between the outside world and our inner life. Bottom line is, we cannot really be open to the world, if we are not attuned to ourselves, our needs. We can't have compassion for others, if we don't have it for ourselves. We can't trust others if we don't trust ourselves.

It all starts within.

What a tremendously important thing for me to learn, in an effort to have healthy, respectful relationships free of guilt, manipulation or control. I feel sadness for not being able to learn it earlier in my life. But gratitude for learning it now.

Cooking for me, in the last couple of years especially, has become a sort of meditation. A conscious gesture to seek to ground myself, be connected to the physical world, and inside of myself at the same time. A way to practice that balance of self-attunement and open-mindedness to the world.

One afternoon, making this simple pear cake, and enjoying it with Pablo with a cup of tea and the low afternoon sun, brought me inner peace.

May it do the same for you when you need it...

Pear almond spelt cake

Adapted from Les Cakes de Sophie by Sophie Dudemaine

Prep time: 20mn
Cook time: 15mn + 40mn

Age for babies: 12 months and up (because of the eggs)

3 eggs
3/4 cup (6 oz) granulated cane sugar
1 + 1/4 cup  (5.5 oz) spelt flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1/2 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup (5 oz) salted butter
2 Bosc pears (not too soft) (other pears work too)

For the syrup:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water

Preheat the oven at 350°F.

Heat the syrup (sugar and water) until it simmers. Meanwhile peel the pears, cut them in half, and poach them in the simmering sugar water for about 15 minutes. Drain and cube them. (*Alternatively, in a pinch, you can use canned pears in light syrup. Rinse them and cut them up)

In a large bowl (or in a stand mixer if you have one), beat the eggs and sugar together (with a whisk, or electric beater). Incorporate the spelt flour, almond meal and baking powder. Melt the butter in the microwave or on the stove, and add it to the batter.  Sprinkle the pear pieces with a little flour, and add them to the batter.

Butter and flour a rectangular cake pan, and pour the cake batter in.

Bake for about 40 minutes, until the blade of a knife comes out clean.

We enjoyed with some passion fruit tea and a bite or two of dark chocolate :-)

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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Pablo's weekly menu, and a cool lunchbox!

From the Ojai Farmer's Market

I feel like I'm settling back into my world of food like one settles into a comfortable armchair. Getting back to reading food blogs, being inspired by other people's work, browsing cookbooks, browsing Pinterest, noticing how the light hits the fruit bowl, walking through the Farmer's market. The beauty of fresh produce. All this is a quiet kind of inspiration. When we are in crisis mode, our mind focalizes on survival, and closes itself to the beauty out there. We don't even think to look at it, we have tunnel vision. Making the transition from the intensity of crisis to the peaceful brewing that life mostly is, can be so challenging, that re-opening of our mind, free of pressure or fear, to the world.  But the world beckons my attention again, and looking outward again, I feel grateful. 

Speaking of grateful, I also wanted to take this opportunity to talk about and feature Pablo's new lunchbox, which we discovered thanks to the kindness of the people at Yumbox. Pablo now goes to daycare three mornings a week, and this lunchbox is really perfect for us. The bento box format with compartments is perfect for a lunch in "courses", it is also very good for portion control, and Pablo just loves it. We have been using it for the past couple of months, and I definitely recommend it. If you are interested in finding more about it or purchasing it, you can find it here.

I am posting pictures of Pablo's Yumboxes on Facebook regularly in case it can spark some ideas. You should also check out Yumbox's Facebook page for lots of ideas, and I always welcome your suggestions and ideas too! 

French-style grated carrots, cold leg of lamb, mild mustard on the side, white beans, Sheep's milk cheese, pineapple

Now on to the week's menu.

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: Camembert (cow), goat gouda, mimolette, Italian blue, Petit Basque (sheep's milk).

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.


Pablo's Lunchbox: 
Cauliflower & potato in vinaigrette, skirt steak, Pecorino cheese, apple

Goûter (4pm snack) – Speculoos cookie

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Butter lettuce with vinaigrette
Main course: Chicken Basquaise


Pablo's Lunchbox:
Tomato cucumber salad, hard boiled egg, rice, Petit Basque sheep's milk cheese, strawberries.

Goûter - Kiwi

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Butternut leek soup from Cannelle & Vanille
Main course: Pan-fried lamb chops with flageolets beans à la française


Lunch at the beach (Pablo loves the fish tacos, with sides avocado and black beans and a few sweet potato fries)

Goûter – Pear

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Leftover butternut leek soup
Main course: Ham, green beans with parsley and garlic


Appetizer / Finger Foods: 1/2 avocado with vinaigrette
Main course: Sardines with leftover flageolets 

Goûter - 

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Watermelon radish (with butter and salt)
Main course: Roasted chicken with bell peppers and onions, fresh fettucini Alfredo (trying this recipe)


Pablo's Lunchbox: 
French-style grated carrots, smoked salmon, tzatziki with pita, goat gouda, tangerine

Goûter - Tangerine

Appetizer / Finger FoodsPea salad
Main course: This lovely Carrot Risotto from Food Loves Writing


Lunch out

Goûter - Mango

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Green bean cauliflower salad
Main course: Oven roasted pork ribs with multicolored potatoes & butter lettuce.


Appetizer / Finger Foods: Lentil shallot salad
Main course: Prosciutto & avocado

Goûter - Almond Galette des Rois

Appetizer / Finger Foods: Broccoli watercress soup
Main course: Tofu, coconut quinoa

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Friday, January 10, 2014

A colorful scallop tartare... & getting unstuck

So you know, life happened, some seriously stormy weather. And then, an escape to Paris, a breath, a lungful of air above water. An escape but also a step back, a spot from which to judge the state of my life. Difficult holidays. Too much family turmoil to be as carefree as I would have liked. Constantly overextended, scrambling, frantic.

And stuck. Chaos leads to rigidity, law of physics.

Scared to write again, scared to blog again. To stare at the blank screen, to grab my camera. After this hiatus, what if I have nothing left to say? To contribute?

A lot of us have that feeling, I suppose. In a rut. Afraid to try something new, a new recipe, a new ingredient. Afraid no one will like it, afraid it’ll be a terrible failure, that it just won’t work. Yet I know better. Failure is not trying. Failure is letting myself stay stuck. Failure is giving in to fear. Success is doing our best, being kind to ourselves, and daring to get unstuck, to move forward, blindly if need be, but move forward nonetheless.

Come to think of it, there is no such thing as success and failure. Those concepts have nothing to do with what matters. Nothing to do with life. Removing them from our reasoning might just be the key to moving forward.

So how to get unstuck? A good dose of acknowledgement and compassion for oneself, another of self-care, to be with oneself, grounded. And a sparkle or two of inspiration. I had two of these sparkles this week.

I took Pablo to see the shuttle Endeavor at the California Science Center. And as we’re looking at the exhibits, I realize he is a complete blank slate on this topic. He’s seen a rocket in a couple of books, but basically, he knows nothing of it. Eyes wide, he’s observing and learning, engaged, with a completely fresh, open-minded perspective. Microgravity, space travel, the universe, the earth, stars and nebula, astronauts, energy, engines... he was in awe! For a few minutes, I saw things through his fresh, brand new eyes. Through his open mind, his awed perspective. And I was inspired! I was moved to tears, actually. Such an uplifting feeling.

And then, I re-read this attempt of a poem I wrote a few years ago. And here I am... getting unstuck once again.

I wish you a happy New Year, full of inspired and inspiring moments, self-care and lungfuls of fresh air and fresh perspectives.

So here we are, floating about in a sea
The image of a boat, in a bubble above our heads
The water pulls us, the waves batter us
We drift about our lives, waiting endlessly 
But perhaps on a calm day, unexpectedly
If we're not too busy keeping our heads above water
Or tasting our lips, or tears, salty
For one instant, we may experience who we are
Right there, we feel our plexus, our very core
And there, from our center
A cord has been growing
It has been there all along
Umbilical in a way, our visceral truth, a mother
That cord lies ahead of us through the sea
Like a bridge, a lifeline
Taut, as if attached on the other side of the horizon
To worlds to be discovered
Lives to be lived
A fate we cannot foresee 
We can ignore it all right
And think of the boat
In the bubble above our head
Or hold on to that cord
Heaving ourselves with all our might
Toward whatever lies ahead
So heaving myself off of my insecurities and doubts, I am here to share this very pretty dish I adapted from the French cooking magazine Saveurs. Colorful and delicate, a touch of beauty on a plate. Also a good way to introduce scallops to a shellfish newbie. Pablo loved it (picking the pomegranate seeds and popping them in his mouth brought some fun to the table as well :-)

Scallop Tartare with pomegranate & avocado

Adapted from Saveurs magazine, winter 2013

Age for babies : 12 months and up for shellfish, I would skip the pomegranate seeds and just do scallops and avocado until 18 months and up depending on chewing abilities.

Prep time : 15 minutes
Rest time : 10 minutes

Serves 4 people

12 medium size fresh scallops
1 avocado ripe but still firm
1/3 cup of pomegranate seeds
1 lime
3 tbsp olive oil
Microgreens for garnish

Rinse and dry the lime. Grate the zest off, mince it finely and set aside.

Squeeze the lime into a bowl. Add the olive oil. Dice the scallops and place in the lime/olive oil marinade. Mix and place in the fridge for about 10 minutes.

Dice the avocado.

Gently stir together the avocado, scallop mixture and lime zest.

To shape the tartares in small serving plates, you can use a small springform pan (with no bottom): place it on the plate, fill it with the tartare, unlock the spring and remove gently.
Otherwise, you can simply put a mound of the tartare on a plate, and shape it with a small round ramekin for example.

Garnish with some microgreens. Serve cold. (You can make the mixture a couple of hours ahead of time and keep it in the fridge until ready to plate.)

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