Pickeld Black Cherry

Each year during the summer season, I try new recipes for jam and pickle or I rediscover something I was making with my grandmother Adele in Burgundy. This year, because of my cooking class, I have decided to make pickled black cherry. Never made it, never eat it! This is a premiere.

Easy to prepare – less than 30 minutes. You can choose the spices and aromatics that you would like to infuse your cherries with. However, you need to be patient , at least one month (better two months) before to open the jar and enjoy this treat with pâté, cured meat and local artisan cheese, or mix into stuffing and pie fillings, or add to a rich sauce made with wine or beer, or in a salad like us (recipe will come next in my blog). It needs some time to be able to develop its full potential of flavours and be ready to tickle your taste buds.

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This is also the perfect gift for Christmas or when you go visiting friends… add a nice cheese, a bottle of wine or a pack of craft beers, a nice artisan bread or some crackers. The perfect combination for an impromptu culinary experience.

I think it is time to pickle, this is my recipe:

Adapted from Epicurious.

Yield: Makes 3 X 250 ml jars

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Ingredients

200 ml (1 cup) distilled white vinegar

200 ml (1 cup) water

30 grams (1/4 cup) sugar

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

1 teaspoon Szechuan peppercorns

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 to 3 cloves

2 to 3 cardamom pods

3 curry leaves or 1 bay leaf

450 grams (1 pound) fresh rip cherries

3 small rosemary sprigs

Preparation

Wash the cherries as described previously (20 to 30 minutes in 10% white vinegar solution) and pat dry. Cut the stems to keep 1 inch, and don’t remove the stones as these add flavour to your finished product, just remember to warn guests about the pits.

Wash the seals (or lids) and jars in hot soapy water and rinse well. Set the seal aside in simmer hot water and place the jar in the oven on a moderate temperature (about 200 F degrees) for 10 minutes.

Bring the first 10 ingredients to a boil in a medium stainless-steel saucepan, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to medium; simmer 5 minutes.

Add cherries and rosemary to saucepan. Simmer until cherries are tender, it will take 3-5 minutes.

Transfer cherries and rosemary to 250 ml jars. Pour in enough pickling liquid to cover cherries.

Seal the jar straight away and chill, and leave for 2 months before eating.

Will keep in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year. Once opened store in the fridge and eat within 3 weeks.

Strain before serving.

Bon Appetite!

 

 

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Dark Cherry Clafoutis

Oh my, this is one of my favorite desserts during the summer . Easy to do, luxurious, wobbly, custardy, light but flavourful, healthy and so tasty.

Clafoutis is one among so many different French fruity desserts that we can enjoy during the summer season. It is a speciality of the Limousin region, where it is traditionally made with the local black griottes, or sour cherries, arranged in a buttered dish and covered with a thick flan-like batter.

There are numerous variations using other fruits, including plums, prunes, apples, pears, rhubarb, figues, cranberries or blackberries. When other kinds of fruit are used instead of cherries, the dish is properly called a “flaugnarde”. You can also prepare a savory version with different vegetables like cherry tomatoes, shallot, zucchini, spinach… You can also add ham and cheese. Children will love it!

Clafoutis is a versatile and casual dish, a little rustic for sure but so tasty. So feel free to personalize it, your family and friends will love it.

The name “clafoutis” comes from the Occitan dialect word claufir, to cover or fill. And it is exactly what this dessert does, very pleasurably, indeed.

Traditionally, a French clafoutis contains the whole cherries (i.e. with the pits). Over the past few weeks, I read a lot about cherry clafoutis and I have found several recipes that call for removing the pits – some important authors: Julia Child and David Lebovitz, to name some of the well known North American French cuisine gurus.

The idea of removing the pits is a difficult decision for me. I live in North America and I understand that it is important to adapt recipes to the audience we would like not only to reach but also to engage in a culinary journey. However, I really want to share with people the pleasure of French food and the essence of what makes our cooking style that is prepared using simple ingredients so tasty.

I have a lot of thoughts about this dilemma. It is true that I am under the influence of the French tradition and the fact that I don’t want to be too “Americanized” – stubborn French girl!

But to be honest, it is more complicated than this. It relates to my childhood, my grandmother Adele’s clafoutis, the way she taught me how to make this recipe, and the sweet and lip-smacking souvenirs associated with this dish. A real gourmandise! And honestly, I really think I will be so disappointed to discover after so many decades of delicious cherry clafoutis that the fact of keeping the pits doesn’t make any difference at all. The flavour is the same with or without the pits!

Then, I have decided that I will leave to you the decision to remove or not the pits. The only thing I can do is to give you the “food science” explanation of why we need to keep the pits when doing this specific dish – to be able to make the most delicious clafoutis!

According to The Larousse – one of the most prestigious series of French cooking books, the pits have a particular aroma which infuses the batter as they warm up in the oven. As a result, removing them robs the dessert of its full cherry flavour. The pits contain amygdalin, the active chemical found in almond extract. Thus, a small amount of amygdalin from the pits is released into the clafoutis during baking, adding a complementary note to its flavor.

If you decide to remove the pits, you can add some of this flavourful characteristic by adding 1/8 teaspoon almond extract. This is the secret!

I think it is time to cook. This is my recipe for a true French cherry Clafoutis.

 

8 servings          Preparation 3 hours and 30 minutes                    Cooking 45 minutes

Ingredients

600 grams (1.32 pounds) sweet cherries

45 ml (3 tablespoons) kirsch or other brandy

3 large eggs, at room temperature

70 grams (½ cup) all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon almond extract (only if you pit the cherries)

80 grams (1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon) plus 45g (3 tablespoons) sugar

330ml (1 1/3 cup) whole or low fat milk

Pinch of salt

Softened butter (for the baking dish)

 

Preparation

Wash the cherries and remove the stalks.

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If you are not buying organic cherry, it is really important to wash them appropriately to remove as much as pesticides you can. Cherry is one of the “Dirty Dozen” among the fruit and vegetable list. I recommend to simply wash them in a solution of distilled white vinegar and water. You can soak the cherries in a solution of 10% vinegar for 15 to 20 minutes. Rinse them in clear water. Using this technique, you should be able to remove 80% of all pesticides.

Put in a bowl and lightly crush them, so the skins pop but the fruit retains its shape. Add 3 tablespoons sugar and the kirsch, toss together, cover and leave to macerate for two hours.

If you use pitted cherry, you don’t need to crush them but you will have some juice. Do not discard it, you can add some to the batter.

Why is it important to macerate the fruit in kirsch (or other brandy) and sugar for two hours before cooking?

This is a technique I use a lot when I am doing jam. The sugar will slowly permeate the cherries and intensify their flavour. The alcoholic bath will give an extra flavour.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC).

Grease generously a 3-liter (3-quart) baking dish, just wide enough to hold the cherries in one layer.

Lay the macerated cherries in a single layer in the baking dish.

Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and add a pinch of salt and the 80 grams of sugar. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the milk until you have a smooth batter. Stir in the vanilla extract and almond essence, if using it.

Pour the batter over the cherries and bake for about 45 minutes, until it just sets but it is still a bit wobbly (a knife poked in the center should emerge relatively clean).

If you want you can sprinkle some Demerara sugar on the top (it will add a more interesting texture, providing a crunchy counterpoint to all that wobbly custard and juicy fruits).

The clafoutis can be served warm, at room temperature, or cold. It’s traditionally not served with any accompaniment.

You can make it up to one to two days in advance, and refrigerated it.

Bonne Appetite!

 

A little of science…

Nutritional and health value of cherry – A way to boost your energy and your overall health

There are two primary varieties of cherries: sweet and tart (also known as sour cherries). Sweet cherries, such as Bing cherries, are best eaten fresh (and raw), while sour cherries develop a fuller flavor when they’re used in cooking (like baking).

Cherries are one of the very low calorie fruits (63 calories, 13 grams of sugar and 2 grams of fibre per 100 grams).

Cherries, and more specifically sour cherries (mostly because most of the research done so far has been done with sour cherry), are packed with numerous health benefiting compounds that are essential for wellness.

It is important to keep in mind, if you eat cherries for their therapeutic value, that 10 sweet cherries or 1 cup of sour cherries contain about 4 grams of fructose (recommended total daily fructose consumption ≤ 25 grams).

Below are some of the benefits eating different kinds of cherry:

Be Zen and sleep well

Cherry fruits are one of few natural sources of stable anti-oxidant melatonin, a hormone that can lower the body temperature and also can cross the blood-brain barrier easily. As a result, it can produce soothing effects on the brain neurons, calming down the nervous system irritability, which helps relieve neurosis, insomnia and headache conditions. To sleep better, you can drink half to one cup of sour cherry juice an hour before bed.

Balance your blood pressure and maintain your heart as young as possible

Sweet cherries contains potassium (6% daily value per 100 grams), a natural blood-pressure reducer. Potassium balances fluids in our bodies, essentially offsetting the blood-pressure-raising effects of sodium. One cup of these ruby gems packs roughly the same amount of potassium as a small banana and also contains some quercetin, an antioxidant that may help keep blood vessels relaxed and stretched.

Sour cherries provide cardiovascular benefits equal to some medications, and can improve the result even when taken with prescriptions.

Finally, anthocyanins (the pigments that give the sour cherries its red color) may activate a receptor called PPAR in different tissues of body. It can regulate metabolism genes expression, which in turn regulates fat and glucose levels and thereby reduce risk factors for high cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes.

Relieve muscle pain

Scientific studies have shown that anthocyanins in the cherries may act like anti-inflammatory agents by blocking the actions of cyclooxygenase-1 and -2 enzymes. Interestingly, the sour cherries’ antioxidants can also protect against attacks by exercise-induced free radicals, which can lead to painful inflammation. Thus, consumption of cherries has potential health effects against chronic painful episodes such as gout, arthritis, fibromyalgia (painful muscle condition) and sports injuries like post-workout pain.

Fight cancer

Sweet cherries are rich in beta carotene, vitamin C, anthocyanins (red, purple or blue pigments found in many fruits and vegetables, especially concentrated in their skin, known to have powerful anti-oxidant properties) and quercetin, which may work together synergistically to fight cancer. Interestingly, preliminary studies suggest the anthocyanin cyanidin may prevent genetic mutations that can lead to cancer and keep cancer cells from growing out of control. While tart cherries contain some anthocyanins, sweet cherries pack nearly three times as many (two-thirds are found in the skins). The riper the better: as cherries darken, they produce more antioxidants.

Shape your body and overall health through weight management

Anthocyanins in sour cherries may activate a molecule that helps augment fat burning and decrease fat storage. Recently, researchers have shown that rats that received whole tart cherry powder mixed into a high-fat diet didn’t gain as much weight or build up as much body fat as rats that didn’t receive cherries. Interestingly, their blood also showed much lower levels of certain inflammation markers linked to heart disease and diabetes. In addition, they had significantly lower blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides than their cherry-deprived counterparts.

Let’s eat some sour cherries when they are in season!

References

http://www.eatingwell.com/nutrition_health/nutrition_news_information/cherry_nutrition_benefits

http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/natasha-turner-nd/cherries-benefits_b_3757989.html

Bacon Sauteed Spinach

Green vegetables… Oh, my! We all know that we need to add them to our diet in a daily basis. This is so important for your health, but some days it is hard. Too busy, too tired… I am facing the same issues. Finding quick ways to cook veggies help us to keep on track.

I love spinach and I have learnt to cook them here in Canada, more exactly to cook them differently.

In France, we have had the tendency (30 to 40 years ago… I am not sure if we are still doing this nowadays) to boil mostly all the vegetables before to “sauté” them in butter or olive oil. Imagine the impact of boiling for several minutes delicate on vegetable like mushroom and spinach. Yaqui … the spinach turns dark green/kaki color and has no taste, and the mushrooms’ texture is similar to rubber without any flavor. I have grew up learning this technique of cooking… no questioning at that time about taste or texture!

Cooking in Canada was a new adventure where I have learnt to cook vegetable differently. During my first few years here, I shared my apartment with Chinese girls, students like me at University of Toronto, who are my friends now. They were exceptional cooks. I have learnt how to cook Chinese food, and more importantly I have discovered the technique of stir fry, and this technique has changed my life – more specifically my way to cook vegetable. I am not cooking anymore the same way, and cooking vegetable is now my number one talent. Thanks to the Chinese cuisine!

Stir fry takes only a few minutes. It is an easy way to cook spinach (no excuse like I am too busy) and keep the overall nutritional and health value of this fantastic veggie.

As I have explained in a previous blog, spinach is one of the best sources of magnesium… so important for your health.

Magnesium is a key nutrient that contributes to overall cellular health and plays an important role in more than 300 different bodily functions. For example, magnesium is needed to regulate calcium, potassium and sodium, which together all control neuromuscular signals and muscle contractions. This is why a magnesium deficiency can sometimes result in muscle pains and cramps. Magnesium deficiency is also associated with insomnia, mood disturbances, headaches, high blood pressure, and an increased risk for diabetes. One major concern is the fact that a lot of adults in developed nations are actually experiencing a magnesium deficiency. The good news is, magnesium in spinach stays intact after being cooked.

Another important aspect is the fact that if you are cooking spinach with some fat, you are going to improve the absorption of its mineral and vitamins content. You can use, vegetable oil or why not, grass-fed butter, pastured lard or bacon fat. I am using bacon in this recipe, for extra taste. This is the Chinese way to cook vegetable with a little of ground pork meat for taste.

Why bacon?

As explained so nicely in a blog of Nourished Kitchen, lard is still on disgrace, and this despite the fact that monounsaturated fat, the same fat that makes olive oil and avocados so healthy, is the primary fatty acid in lard (~ 40-45% of the fat content). The remaining 55-60% is a combination of saturated fat (~37-42%) and polyunsaturated fat (~ 18-23%).

Lard is also a potently rich source of vitamin D, the second richest source after cod liver oil. This is only the case if the fat comes from pasture-raised hogs. Hogs, like humans and unlike cows, are monogastric animals and they manufacture vitamin D in their skin which makes their fat extraordinarily rich in this fat-soluble vitamin.

To date, up to 60 to 70% of the Canadian population is suffering from insufficient and deficient levels of this vitamin as sunlight alone is typically not adequate in replenishing vitamin D stores and some should be consumed in the diet. The inclusion of pastured lard as well as supplementary cod liver oil and the eating of oily fish helps to ensure you get plenty vitamin D which is essential for proper immune system function, cognitive health, regulation of inflammation, calcium absorption and overall systemic wellness.

Try to add some pasture-raised lard or bacon to your diet.

I think it is time to cook, this is my recipe.

2 to 4 servings                            Preparation 5 minutes                             Cooking 8 to 12 minutes

 

Ingredients

1 to 2 slices of pastured bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch strips

2 bunches baby spinach

Peppercorn

 

Preparation

Rinse the spinach well in cold water to make sure it’s very clean. Spin it dry in a salad spinner, leaving just a little water clinging to the leaves.

In a very large pan or skillet over medium heat, cook bacon for 5 to 7 minutes until it begins to get a nice brown color or you begin to salivate at the incredible smell. – Increase heat to medium/high, and fill skillet with as much spinach as will fit. Season with pepper. Cook, tossing spinach and adding more as it wilts (it may take up to 2 minutes to fit it all). Continue to cook until tender, 1 to 3 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, lift the spinach to a serving bowl that contain beer infused rice pilaf or rice and quinoa. Serve hot.

Bonne Appetite!

Spinach Broccoli Creamy Soup

… don’t be afraid by the bright green colour, it is all natural!

Making a creamy soup without using any starchy vegetables like potatoes or the addition of cream is a healthy alternative. I have learnt from my mum and grandmothers that a vegetable soup needs to contain potatoes, and it took me years before I have been able to understand that potatoes doesn’t need to be one of the main ingredients in soups. Changing habits can take time!

This soup is one of the most simple soups I am making regularly. It contains olive oil, onions, two green vegetables – broccoli and spinach, some old cheddar cheese (or French Comté or Gruyere), salt and peppercorn. This is it!

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I love this soup, not only because of its bright green color that invites us to enjoy without delay the first spoon of this green nectar, but also because of its fresh and tasty flavors. The secret, the broccolis are cooked slowly for more than one hour; this helps them to develop a sweet and nutty flavor and not the cabbage flavor that is so familiar when they are overcooked. The spinach are added at the end, just before to puree all the ingredients together.  You can enjoy this soup for dinner and keep the left over for your lunch.

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Adding green leafy vegetables to your diet is really important for your health – everybody knows this. But sometime putting this adage in practice is another story. Finding different ways to accommodate these green vegetables can be challenging. Meals where green vegetables are the main ingredient can be boring if your only solution is to  cook steamed them. Stir fry, salad, smoothie, soup, pie… There are no limits. It is yummy! Every day, a new culinary adventure  for you and your family!

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I think it is time to cook, this is my recipe (adapted from America Test Kitchen).

The recipe

4  to 6 servings

Ingredients

3 to 4 small onions, diced

1 bunch broccoli

1 bunch spinach

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 to 5 cups chicken stock

80 grams old Cheddar (or Comte or Gruyere)

Salt and peppercorn

Directions

Cut the broccoli florets from the stems. Peel the tough outer skin from the stems and trim off the fibrous ends. Cut the stems into small pieces.

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Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven pot over medium-high heat until hot. Add the onions and cook until light brown. Add the broccoli, lower the heat to low, and cook for 1h.

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Add the stock, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, for about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat and leave it to rest for 5 to 10 min.

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Puree the soup in a blender in small batches. Add some of the spinach and some of the Cheddar to each batch and then puree it.

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Return the soup to the pan and reheat over gentle heat. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Thin the soup if necessary. Keep warm.

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It is time to enjoy… Bon Appetite!

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Served with graded cheese, roasted peanuts and bannock …. Yummy!

If you want to learn more about the nutrition and health benefits of these two vegetables, there are more information for you below:

spinach 1

Does cooking affect significantly the nutritional value of these two green vegetables? Not necessary

Boiling broccoli leads to the biggest losses of cancer-fighting nutrients. Steaming for up to 20 minutes, microwaving for up to three minutes and stir-frying for up to five minutes produced no significant loss of cancer-preventive substances. Raw broccoli maintains all of its nutrients, but it can irritate your bowels and cause gas.

Cooking spinach actually increases its health benefits. Just half a cup of cooked spinach will give you twice as much nutrition as one cup of raw spinach. One of the main explanation is the fact that the body cannot completely break down the nutrients in raw spinach for its use.

As an exception to the advice above (and this happens a lot in nutrition and health sciences), research studies have shown that taking spinach in juice form is actually the healthiest way to consume it. Blend spinach with other vegetables or fruits to create a delicious glass of juice, or try a green smoothie.

Spinach is one of the best sources of magnesium… so important for your health

Magnesium is a key nutrient that contributes to overall cellular health and plays an important role in more than 300 different bodily functions. For example, magnesium is needed to regulate calcium, potassium and sodium, which together all control neuromuscular signals and muscle contractions. This is why a magnesium deficiency can sometimes result in muscle pains and cramps. Magnesium deficiency is also associated with insomnia, mood disturbances, headaches, high blood pressure, and an increased risk for diabetes. One major concern is the fact that a lot of adults in developed nations are actually experiencing a magnesium deficiency. The good news is, magnesium in spinach stays intact after being cooked.

On the other hand, freezing spinach diminishes its health benefits. The way to get the best from the leaf is to buy it fresh and eat it the same day.

Add spinach to your ‘organic shopping’ list, mostly because the leaf tends to be sprayed heavily with pesticides that don’t come off with normal washing. In contrast, if you are budget limited, you can buy and enjoy conventional and/or local broccoli without problems.

 

 

 

 

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References:

1) http://www.livescience.com/45408-broccoli-nutrition.html

2) http://www.care2.com/greenliving/love-it-or-hate-it-broccoli-is-good-for-you.html

3) http://draxe.com/spinach-nutrition/

4) http://www.care2.com/greenliving/8-surprising-health-facts-about-spinach.html#ixzz3VGarHWnm

5) http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/ss/slideshow-to-buy-or-not-to-buy-organic

Pumpkin Pie Pudding …. too much yummy

When you invest in technology and you are not afraid to experience new paths, you can discover new texture and develop fresh and tasty culinary ideas. This is the case with my Vitamix.

I love pumpkin pie but I know that it contains too much calories. Sadly, it is not possible to enjoy this sweet treat every day.

For Thanksgiving, I have made the traditional pumpkin pie and for the first time, I have used my Vitamix to prepare the filling. It was so creamy that I started to plan new recipes (savory and sweet ones) using as a base the pumpkin puree that I was able to obtain using my blender. Among the different new recipes that I had time to develop over the past 4 months, pumpkin pie pudding is one of my favorites. Easy to do and so tasty!

The taste of the pumpkin pie without the calories from the crust… a real indulgence!

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With the Halloween festivity, pumpkins’ carving is fanatical and these gourds are so charming in their role of Jack-o-lantern. With Thanksgiving, we can enjoy a classic – pumpkin pies, but this is only one time the year.

Pumpkins are more than these two memorable events, and we forget that they are actually one of the most nutritious fruits out there. In the context of a diversified diet, it is important to enjoy pumpkins on a more regular basis. Why?

  • Because it is one of the very low calorie vegetables. One hundred grams pumpkin puree provides just 34 calories and contains no saturated fats or cholesterol,
  • Pumpkin is an often-overlooked source of fiber, but with three grams per 100 grams pumpkin puree, it can keep you feeling full for longer on fewer calories,
  • Pumpkin is a storehouse of many anti-oxidant vitamins such as vitamin-A and vitamin-E,
  • One hundred grams pumpkin puree contains more than 311% of our recommended daily intake of vitamin A, which aids vision, particularly in dim light,
  • One hundred grams pumpkin puree gives you 5 % of your daily vitamin E needs. This vitamin keeps your immune system working properly and also protects your cells from damage that can lead to certain types of disease such as cancer,
  • Pumpkin contains one of the richest supplies of bioavailable carotenoids, the compounds that give the gourd their bright orange color. Carotenoids include beta-carotene that can be converted by the body into a form of vitamin A for additional protection. Moreover, this boost of beta-carotene protects also the immune system and may play a role in inflammation reduction and cancer prevention
  • It is also a rich source of minerals like copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus.

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Pumpkin soup, roasted pumpkin, risotto, pies or cookies… The options are endless, and our souvenirs eternally sweet, giving us watering mouth. This pumpkin pie pudding is light in calories and so easy to make.

I think it is time to cook this simple recipe and enjoy this super food without any restriction.

This recipe is for four servings.

Ingredients

0ne pumpkin (or half of two different ones)

I try to choose small pumpkins because they are normally a bit sweeter. I  also try to use a combination of different pumpkins like pie pumpkin, sugar pie, red kuri, kabocha, delicata, carnival, or acorn (to name some of them). This really depends of the season (autumn vs winter or early spring), and more importantly, of what is available at my local organic supermarket.

1/2 can (150 grams) sweetened condensed milk

1/2 to 1 cup (250 ml) cold water or 2% milk

Depending of the pumpkin’s moisture after being roasted, you may need to add the cold water.

1 teaspoon of ground all spices

1/2 teaspoon of ground clove

1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg

3 to 4 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

 

Preparation

The first step is to roast the pumpkin:

Rinse your pumpkins under warm water, removing any dirt or debris

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Cut the pumpkins in half on a large cutting board, with a sharp knife

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Cut each half into smaller pieces

Scoop out the seeds with a metal spoon or a paring knife

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Lay the pumpkin pieces face side down in a large baking dish (and not how I did in the picture above)

Cover with 1.5 cups of water

Bake at 350° for 45-60 minutes (depending on size) or until tender, using a fork to check

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Remove from oven and scoop out insides, discarding skin

Store in refrigerator in a glass container. It can be kept up to 5 days in refrigerator.

The second step is to blend together all the components

Place all ingredients into your blender container starting with the condensed milk, 150 ml water, the different spices and the roasted pumpkin (600 grams) and secure lid

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Select low speed (variable 1 for the vitamix)

Turn your machine on and slowly increase speed to  max (variable 10 for the vitamix)

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Blend for 45 seconds or until desired consistency is reached

Add more water if necessary and blend again for a few seconds

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Spoon evenly into 4 ramekins, cover with plastic wrap  and refrigerate for 3 hours or overnight

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Serve chilled … it is the best way to enjoy it.

A few words of advice: Use either homemade pumpkin puree, or canned organic pumpkin puree to be sure to have a nice bright orange color, avoid to use the regular canned pumpkin puree because the color sometimes can be muddy brown. We want to have a yummy “good looking” pudding. Occasionally, I also add 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder to give a spicy kick to my pumpkin pie pudding. It is quite delicious.

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Bon Appetite!

A Nutritious Smoothie – Kale, Cucumber, Banana and Honey

Kale is not the kind of vegetable that I was used to eat when I lived in France. In fact, I have never seen a leaf of kale at the farmers’ market of Beaune (the city where I was born in Burgundy) until recently. This green leafy vegetable was not part of the French culinary repertoire that includes among others spinach, parsley, green cabbage, lettuce, chicory, dandelions and Swiss chard.

I have discovered kale here in Canada, but I was quite skeptical. Its dark green color and the texture of the leaves have been for me a “no, not at all” signal. It was difficult for me to bypass my own inhibition.

Like a child, I have rejected this vegetable for many years because of its two physical aspects: dark color and thickness. They were synonymous in my subconscious of strong flavor, too many fibers and as a result: difficulty to swallow. This was my gripe! I was conditioned by my past experience and own boundaries. I adore bright green vegetable with tender leaves. They are so delicious. Kale was far different from the vegetables I have learnt to enjoy when I was younger. This kale might be just another food that I haven’t tried and liked yet; but it was not won in advance.

Appetite for a specific food is not simply a response to physiological or nutritional needs. It has also a psychological and emotional component. In fact, our relation to food is largely a function of expectation, emulation and adaptation. It is why it can be so challenging for people to modify their food behaviors. I went through this kind of challenges.

Interestingly, “our attitudes toward, and responses to, certain foods can be altered enormously by the contexts in which we encounter them, the number of other people we see eating them, the way they do or don’t dovetail with the diets we mean to maintain” (Frank Bruni, New York Time). And it is exactly what happened to me.

During the first few years in Canada, I have tried to keep my French way to eat (homemade food, a lot of veggies & fruits). But over time, I have gradually changed, not only because of the people I worked with and my new friends, but also because of my busy professional life. I have adopted the North American diet because it suited my new life style and social group: a lot of restaurants, eating on the go, all the time on the road – sandwiches and muffins almost every day, a lot of sugar, very little fruit and vegetable intake.

And one day, I woke up. I said no, not anymore. I needed to be more watchful of my weight and energy. I needed to reconnect with the French culinary practices, my family’s farmer roots. I needed to learn again to enjoy vegetables & fruits and more simply, to reconnect with good healthy food. I went to the farmers’ market here in Toronto where I met kale again. This time it was inescapable. I needed to try it, I needed to like it!

Kale is what we call the “the queen of greens” and “a nutritional powerhouse”.  It provides an earthy flavor and more nutritional value for fewer calories than almost any other food around.  Kale’s nutrient richness stands out in three particular areas: (1) antioxidant nutrients, (2) anti-inflammatory nutrients, and (3) anti-cancer nutrients in the form of glucosinolates.

Without sufficient intake of antioxidants, our oxygen metabolism can become compromised, and we can experience a metabolic problem called “oxidative stress.” Without sufficient intake of anti-inflammatory nutrients, regulation of our inflammatory system can become compromised, and we can experience the problem of chronic inflammation. Oxidative stress and chronic inflammation — and the combination of these metabolic problems — are risk factors for development of cancer.

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3 to 4 bananas

Now I try to eat kale 2-4 times per week, and I like to have a smoothie for my breakfast or during the day as a snack. It is a great way to enjoy kale. I have read a lot about kale, I have reviewed a lot of smoothie recipes that contain kale. One of my major issues, there was not enough kale. I wanted to boost my kale consumption, and consequently, the nutritional and health impact of this powerful vegetable. I have tried different combinations: kale with berries, pineapple, pear, yogurt, almond…Too much kale was a challenge, it does not necessary interact well with other ingredients. At that point, I didn’t like the color and/or the taste.

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Half a cucumber

Making smoothies, it is a constant learning process. I try new combinations. I try to be creative, I learn and move on.

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200 g of kale

After many weeks of experimentation, I came to the conclusion – simplicity is the best! My smoothie contains banana, kale, cucumber and honey. Each cup brings 40 to 50 grams of kale. The bitter, peppery flavor of kale is counterbalanced by the sweet combination of banana, raw honey and bee pollen. Cucumber is here to add water but also its refreshing flavor that balances appropriately the sweetness of banana and honey. An interesting alchemy! I always keep one cup in a thermos for later in the day. The various ingredients have time to settle down and to develop new flavors. It is so yummy! I discover each time a new alchemy of flavors that was not necessary here when the smoothie was just ready to drink. You really need to try.

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One table spoon of honey, 1/2 teaspoon of bee pollen and 6 ice cubes

I think it is time to cook. This is my recipe:

Serving: 4 to 5 cups

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Add 2 to 3 cups water

Ingredients:

3 medium or 4 small bananas (mature or well mature)

Half a cucumber (medium size)

6 to 8 leafs of kale (200 g)

If you are using a Vitamix, do not remove the stem. If you are using another kind of blender, remove the stem but increase the number of leafs (10 to 12).

1 tablespoon of raw honey

1/2 teaspoon of pure bee pollen

2 to 3 cups of cold water (depending if you like the consistency more liquid or not)

5 to 7 ice cubes

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Purée until smooth

Place all ingredients in a blender and purée until smooth. With my Vitamix, I increase gradually the speed and mix at maximum speed for 2 to 3 minutes. Simple and easy to do! Your smoothie is ready.

Bonne Appetite!

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Ready for my snack

 

kale 1

kale 2