In the kitchen: fancy desserts made easy (and vegan)

This year, I altered my diet a bit and became a part-time vegetarian.

Or a flexitarian, if you prefer.

The dreaded word. Vegetarian. The first time I heard that word, I was something like 8-9 years old, and when an adult in primary school told me that she did not eat meat because was vegetarian. And I clearly remembered thinking two things:

-I pictured her eating, every single day of her life, a bowl of lettuce leaves and tomatoes

-How can she live without a cheeseburger ?

A little more than a decade later, at 22, I am the one happily eating lettuce leaves and trying to eat less ditching cheeseburgers.

Surprisingly, this unexpected turn of events happenened for no reason: one of my friends is a vegetarian -for ethical reasons- and she just challenged me to use grains, cereals and vegetables to develop new recipes. Challenge accepted. I was bored with the perennial steak/chicken breast with a small side of rice and salad and realized that I was not eating enough crudités. So just for fun, I started decreasing my meat consumption and sooner than expected- I coped without meat, and pretty well, I must add. I only have meat on week-ends when I visit my parents and family. And when it’s sushi time because raw salmon is one of the best thing in the world.

I really enjoy the way I eat now, I’m more creative in the kitchen and, being a student- it’s easier and faster to prepare than a 36-courses meal.

Another thing that changed (and for good) in my diet is that I now got rid of dairy products. I am not a doctor, but I noticed that when I went a little overboard with cheese (and little is a euphemism when it comes to French people !), I had less breakouts and my now my skin looks better than it ever did: even my younger sister, who used to make fun of me “She only eats veggies and tofu“, told me a few times that my skin looked nice after years of breakouts.

So I recently tried to make vegan desserts-and recently I added two recipes to my list:

This vegan, dairy-free avocado chocolate mousse: don’t let the avocado scare you away- it won’t taste like guacamole. Avocado absorbs the cocoa powder and you won’t even know it’s there. I did it without coconut milk/cream- simply blended the cocoa powder, honey, and pecans with the mashed avocado.

– You know those coconut balls/pearls you microwave in Chinese buffets ? I finally found, in a nearby Asian store, the glutinous rice flour the recipes calls for and ended up with nice pearls- my friend prepared the filling by mashing in a mortar canned chesnuts with sweet potato and honey. It was easier than expect, quick, fun, and a bit messy, too ;). In this recipe, I did not add the peanut oil or any oil for that matter, nor sugar for the coating- coconut was enough and I did not want it to taste too sweet..

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Here is the finished product !

In the kitchen: Sick day soup

I don’t quite remember if what I found the paragraph in the TIME magazine or somewhere else- but I once read a few pages about the culinary habits of some well-renowned chefs across the world. When they were asked what last dish they would choose to eat before dying, their answer was at the same time surprising and understandable.

I’d thought they would give the name of some elaborate dish, the one you’d find on their menu and that looks, on the paper, like a long, poetic introduction to the plate that is about to come on the table. After all, don’t they juggle all day with rare fishes, exotic ingredients like vanilla, tonka beans, and expensive white truffles ?

Instead, they all named a childhood recipe of spaghetti, of soup, something their mother made on Sundays- in short, really simple dishes.

My mom is an amazing cook, but if you were to ask me the same question the magazine asked the chef, I would reply in the same manner: I would not pick one of her sophisticated dishes, but probably the simplest: sick day soup. When we were younger, she would, when we had a cold and were bedridden, bring us a vermicelli bowl of soup on a tray- a really simple one: a chicken broth with vermicelli and, I never knew why, half a tomato.

Today, I made my little sister a similar soup – she wanted “little stars” instead of vermicelli, and I slightly altered the original recipe.

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I added some celery chopped stalks, turkey cubes, green onions, cinnamon and ginger powder, freshly ground pepper, sea salt, and the secret ingredient…clove. This soup is so autumny, and served along with bread and butter, it’s such a nice comfort food.

Bon appétit !

“I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.” – Laura Ingalls Wilder

In the kitchen: caramelized onions quiche

This summer, I went to London with one my best friends. We are fond of everything royal and typically British, so, of course, we could not leave the country without having, at least once, a really nice tea time. We had fingers sandwiches of all types -the well-renowned cucumber/cream cheese one, along with some garnished with curried chicken, salmon and corned beef; for dessert, an assortement of cakes, and, of course, the famous scones, served with clotted cream, rose petals jam and lemon curd- and countless cups of Earl Grey tea ! We were thrilled !

However, one unexpected little pie stood out from the three tiered stand: a tiny onion quiche. Everything was amazing, both the crust and the filling, and yesterday, as I had the same friend over for dinner- which was followed by a movie night (When Calls the Heart !) at home with popcorn- I tried my hand at replicating the same pie. I had a store-bought crust -a flaky pastry, to be exact, so though the one we had in London was more like a pie crust, it still was delicious. We paired it with a simple salad, served with a pesto vinaigrette.

quiche

Recipe- inspired by one I found here.

1 package refrigerated piecrusts or flaky pastry
2 large sweet onions, sliced
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
1 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Preparation:

1. Preheat oven to 425°. Unroll piecrust and line it with parchment paper, and fill with  dried beans. Place pan on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes, and cool completely on baking sheet. .

2. Meanwhile, cook onions in butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat, 15 to 20 minutes, and add sugar, stirring often, until onions are caramel colored. Remove from heat. Whisk, in a bowl, the egg, and add the Gruyere Cheese, the onions, salt, pepper and nutmeg

3. Bake at 350° for 40 to 45 minutes or until set. Cool on baking sheet on a wire rack 15 minutes before serving.

Bon appétit !