Look What I Got!

Look What I Got!

Sometimes it’s the nicest and most heart-warming thing to see how well your own personal Maxence knows you. He went on a business trip to Helsinki (in Finland, for the geographically challenged among us, I certainly am one of them) for a couple of days last week. When we got home on the night of his return – after we went to see Air brilliantly playing live at the Zenith -, I was greeted by a small mountain of Finnish goods, neatly arranged on my side of the bar*.

*I’ll easily admit – though a little shamefully – that I do feel the need to have half of the bar be considered mine. Our respective mess has to be on the correct side.

My lovely sweet darling had combed the freezing frozen streets of Helsinki, looking for a good grocery store, and had more or less bought one of every product that looked foreign and Finnish and interesting.

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Baked Oatmeal Breakfast Clafoutis

Baked Oatmeal Clafoutis

For the longest time I wasn’t the greatest fan of oatmeal, at least when cooked in milk the usual way. The lumpy look and the weird smell and the mushy texture really turned me off. However, I was always a good friend of oatmeal in muesli, and in cookies, and in this baked oatmeal recipe.

The original recipe is actually one that is offered by Quaker Oats, and it caught my attention as it went through a bout of extreme popularity on the Cooking Light forums some time ago. I like to add nuts and dried fruit, such as raisins or dried cranberries, and an apple, a banana, a pear, a peach, or any fresh seasonal fruit is a great addition, too.

I call it a clafoutis because the texture reminds me of the typically French, grandmotherly dessert, and a slice of this oatmeal for breakfast or brunch is a delightful way to start the day : tasty, filling and healthful. You can have it with a side of yogurt and fruit; it is also nice with a thin spread of jam or peanut butter.

About the cinnamon I use

I am in love with the fresh cinnamon I order from Cinnamon Hill, a small company that specializes in sourcing and selling the highest-quality, freshest cinnamon from Sri Lanka and Vietnam (ordinary cinnamon usually comes from China or Indonesia). I get whole sticks, and grate them with the beautifully crafted (and highly giftable!) cinnamon grater that Cinnamon Hill has designed. Truly, you don’t know what cinnamon tastes like until you’ve tried freshly harvested, freshly grated, top-grade cinnamon, and it makes an amazing difference in this recipe.

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Live Food : A Cooking Class

Live Food : A Cooking Class

Last Saturday, I took a cooking class on live food at Pousse-Pousse, the little store where I buy my sprouting gear and collect my Campanier baskets.

It was taught by Pol Grégoire, a chef from Belgium. He started out his career in conventional cooking, but then he got interested in what he calls “alimentation vive” and low-temp cooking, and decided to start eating and cooking that way. He opened a restaurant in Brussels along those precepts, he has written a book that is just ready to get published, and he organizes conferences and cooking classes.

The class was held in the kitchen at the back of the Pousse-Pousse boutique : the students were sitting around a long and narrow table, at the end of which Pol stood, preparing the food, talking about the ingredients and the nutrition concepts, and answering the myriad of our questions. Among the twelve students, there were three guys, which I consider a pretty good ratio for a cooking class, and a nutrition-oriented one at that. Since Pol’s classes are organized in cycles of five, some people knew each other and the chef already, and the general atmosphere was friendly and relaxed, with a little teasing thrown in the mix.

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Thoughts from the Grocery Store

Thoughts from the Grocery Store

With the amount of food shopping I habitually engage into, you’d think I would know better than to go to the grocery store with my stomach rumbling so loud it could be heard over the loudspeakers’ cheesy music.

Having come in with the intention to buy just plain yogurts to start a batch of homemade ones, I managed to walk away with two other types of yogurts, my favorite Krisprolls (the “Special” flavor with sunflower seeds), two different gâteaux au fromage blanc (the French cheesecake, light and moussy), malt swirl crackers, chocolate covered biscuits, the crêpes and the little pains au lait Maxence likes for breakfast, and a loaf of raisin bread. Can you tell it’s carbs I crave when hungry?

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Swiss Chard and Squash Seeds Tart

Tarte aux Blettes et Graines de Courge

[Swiss Chard and Squash Seeds Tart]

Had you been in my kitchen last week, you would have heard a small squeal of joy. That would have been me, unloading the contents of my weekly Campanier basket of fruits and vegetables, and discovering a lush bunch of swiss chard.

The next day found me picking up a couple of ingredients from the grocery store, then getting on to make this Swiss Chard Tart. I have recently bought a bag of squash seeds and a bottle of squash seed oil that I seem to throw into everything I make these days, and it turned out to be an excellent mix of flavors. In passing, squash seed oil is apparently excellent for your prostate, should you be in possession of one.

This tart is second cousin to a swiss chard pie I had made back in October of last year, which included raisins and pinenuts. This time, I decided to purée the cooked chard mixture before putting it in the pie shell. I like it both ways in terms of texture, but this second method makes for a much nicer appearance.

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