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Passover celebrates the jews’ escape from enslavement in Egypt. It is one of the most widely observed jewish holiday. When the jews escaped, they didn’t wait for the bread to rise. So during eight days we don’t eat any leavened bread.

It is traditional for my family as for most jewish families to gather the first 2 nights for a special dinner: the Seder. At the Seder, every person should see himself as if he were going out of Egypt. Beginning with our Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, we recount the Jewish people’s descent into Egypt and recall their suffering and persecution. After our reading of the Hagadah(the special book retelling the story of the exodus), we get to sit down to a delicious (huge) dinner.

My family is from Tunisia (which used to be a French colony) and forever our Passover dinner has been prepared with lots of love by my sweet grandmother. Only a couple years ago (at age 90!) did she decide it was a little too much work for her. I have since been hosting our family seder and prepared the traditionnal tunisian food with my mom and sister.

I only have time to post a few photos right now but I’ll make sure to give yall the recipes later.

We started by a Kemia, an assortment of typical salads and appetizers:

Potato, egg and tuna salad

Mekbouba: stewed bell pepper and tomato salad

Cumin carrot salad

Maakoud: a loaf made with eggs, fish and spinach

Boutargue made with dried fish eggs

Banatages: yummy fried potato and meat balls

Larenj: the most awesome turnip, bell pepper, grapefruit and orange salad! This is my absolute favorite! I tried to make it once but it was not nearly as good as when my mom makes it!

The main dish is called Msoki and is a stew made with 19 vegetables and herbs along with some meat. We only eat it on passover.

For dessert, I did some baking experiments. Making cupcakes without flour and baking powder was actually easier than I thougt. I made two kinds: orange-almond and chocolate-hazelnut.

Chocolate-hazelnut cupcake

Orange-almond cupcakes

Both types of cupcakes were really awesome. The Husband has eaten a total of 18 cupcakes in 36 hours! That is one cupcake every 2 hours!

I’ll be back with the recipes and more tunisian food!!!

Have a great day!

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Thank yall for your kind messages.  I don’t think I’ve been this sick in many, many years…. Probably since junior high….I started taking antibiotics a few days ago and I have to say my sinusitis is finally much better. I hate the idea of taking antibiotics, or just the idea of needing them… What can I say?  Doctors are the worst patients…

Here are the highlights of my week:

Oeuf au Plat et Tartine du Dimanche (Sunday’s fried egg and toasts)

This is a simple sunny side up fried egg with fresh chives (the way my mom used to make them when I was a kid). On the side, I made “Tartines” with toasted pain rustique (one of my favorite breads from my local Kaiser bakery), melted Tome de Savoie and thin sliced San Daniele ham or melted goat cheddar and pan seared pears. Easy and so satisfying….

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Piperade with poached egg:

Piperade is a traditional dish of the south west of France. It is made with stewed tomatoes, bell peppers, onions and hot peppers. It tastes very much like a tunisian stew I grew up eating (shakshuka). My sis brought me a can of piperade after one of her trips to south of France a while ago and it has been sitting on a shelf since then, waiting for the perfect day to be opened. After a long tuesday at work, I was so glad I had waited for so long to open that special can because it finally was the perfect day. I heated the piperade in a small saucepan and when it was finally simmering I added two eggs to the mixture. I cooked the eggs until the white was firm then transfered them carefully to bowls along with some of the sauce.

It really reminded me of my childhood… which made me think I should post more tunisian recipes soon. With Passover coming up, I’m sure I’ll have a lot of family recipes to share!

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Pear Chocolate Oat Bars:

Remember my delicious sautéed pear hot cereal? Well, I had a couple ripe pears sitting on my kitchen counter waiting for me to replicate this meal. But I never found the time to prepare such good breakfast for myself this week. And I couldn’t let these pears go bad either. So I decided to include them in a new oatmeal bar recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large pear, diced
  • 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1.5 cup rolled oats
  • 1 egg + 1 egg white
  • 1.25 cup skim milk
  • about 3 Tbsp agave syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 Tbsp ground flax seeds

Preheat oven at 350°C. Mix dry (except flaxseeds) and wet ingredients separately. Combine wet  into dry. Pour into baking dish, sprinkle with flaxseeds and bake for 30-40 min.

The husband ate almost the entire thing in one sitting. I still managed to save a couple bars to take to work. I liked them a lot.

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Now that I’m feeling a lot better, I can’t wait to get back to the kitchen and ….. to the gym! I have a Body Pump class scheduled at 7:15 tonight and I’m really excited to go. I feel that my body can finally handle it!

Stay tuned, I’ll be back soon…..

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Sicko’s survival foods…

Well before I start renting, you better know I’m NEVER sick. Never as a child, nor as a adult either. So being sick makes me quite frustrated and frankly I hate it! And for some reason I have not yet figured out, this is the third cold/ flu virus I catch this winter…. I still don’t know how to deal with sickness though and had to have the husband talk me through the whole “take it easy” process. It is not very natural for me to “just rest”. But I have to say I’m glad he forced me told me not to exercise or work longer hours than absolutely necessary, as today (Day 5), the fever is down and I’m feeling a little better. I think it would have taken me much longer to recover if I had put much stress on my body. Hopefully, I’ll be a lot better next week and will get right back into my routine.

I don’t know about you but when I’m sick I don’t feel hungry at all. My taste is altered and I just need foods that are easy to prepare, easy to digest, and full of nutrients to boost my immune system. So here is what this week was made of:

1. Chicken and Egg Soup:

The secret to a great chicken soup? Make your own broth. To make this quick chicken soup I used a rotisserie chicken. I simmered the bones and carcass for one hour or so to make a tasty broth, then I removed them and drained the broth.

Then I placed the fresh broth  along with the chicken meat, 2 carrots, 2 zucchinis and 3 turnips (all cut into 1/4-1/2 inch pieces). I seasonned with some fresh thyme, salt and pepper, brought to a boil, then covered and let simmer for 30 min. After the 30 min had passed, I brought the soup to a boil again and I poured a beaten egg in the soup, stirring constantly until small egg threads form.

This was delicious!

2. Yogurt and Fruit Parfaits:

I actually had that for dinner a couple of night when I didn’t feel hungry at all. I love fruit and yogurt parfaits. They are perfect any time of day!

I like the way this looks against my bright orange wall…..

3. Crèpes à l’oeuf, champignons, féta et basilic (savory crepes with egg, mushroom, feta and basil):

These are really easy to make since you can buy the black wheat crepes at the store (all organic, of course). Then you can top with whatever your little heart desires…. I like savory crepes they are a perfect way to eat your proteins, veggies, and grains in one little package. Yum…

What do you survive on when sick? Do you force yourself to workout? Do you feel guitly about resting?

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Good morning yall!

Hope the weekend was nice! Mine was pretty great except some utterly frustrating problems with my image processing program. This is the second weekend in a row where I decide to get some work done end up spending (wasting) all my time trying to fix some bug. Last week, I had some problems with the MRIs I was trying to analyze and this week, it was the program itself that was not working properly. That’s when having an engineer in the house comes in handy and I ended up leaving the husband with the task of uninstalling- reinstalling all this stuff, while I went and baked muffins…. haha… Life is not that bad afterall…

Anyways, rent is over I promise….

We woke up pretty late yesteday and were both craving eggs. I sent the hubby down to get some fresh farm eggs at the cheeseman while I tried to make my kitchen look less like the horsemen of the Apocalypse had ridden through it (gumbo night side effects). As soon as he came back up, I put together these Fried eggs with Parmesan mushroom toasts:

I just love my eggs fried with a little bit of butter. I can’t help it… I know it isn’t as healthy and all but this is probably the only dish where the butter makes a huge difference to me! Am I the only one????

I also made some Strawberry Mint Parfaits:

Cut up strawberries mixed with fresh mint, topped with Fromage blanc, honey and a sprinkle of bee pollen. Delicious!

The afternoon seemed really short, for some reason… And I wished I had spent more time cuddling and watching TV instead of trying to work with something that apparently wasn’t ready to work with me… Sooner than later, the evening came and I was back in the kitchen for some more cajun cooking. I made Créole Grits!

First, to make the sauce, I used: 1 pound crawfish, 1 stalk of celery, 1/2 red bell pepper, 5 tomatoes, 1 tsp lemongrass, cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper and a few leaves of basil and mint added at the end.

Instead of white rice for this cajun inspired dish, I decided to use corn grits. And I have to say, it was a pretty good decision. The corn has so much more flavor than rice and added a lot to this dish.

It was a perfect ending to an otherwise great weekend. I unfortunately don’t have time to tell you about my mid afternoon baking adventure but will sure post about it soon… Let me just say it involves bananas, pecan and oat bran….

Have a great Monday!

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Cajun night!

Can’t believe the week is over! And guess what: today was my first free (and I mean totally free) saturday in a while! I usually either work or take a driving class or both! But this morning, the only thing I had to worry about was staying cosy and warm in my bed, while the sun was shining through our bedroom window! It felt wonderful to just be home…

I woke up starving and knew exactly what I wanted for breakfast. Luckily the Husband went along and didn’t request pancakes….

Sautéed Pears Hot Cereal:

Peal 2  pears, cut in half, core and cut into 1/6 inch slices. In a little iron skillet, heat a tbsp of butter, add the pears. Then add 1 tbsp of sugar and continue sautéing until soft and caramelized.

Serve on top of 1 cup of Bob’s Red Mill 10 grain hot cereal cooked in skim milk and sweetened with Agave syrup. Top with a few dark chocolate chips.

It was the best hot cereal I made…. ever!

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Most of my afternoon was devoted to preparing tonight’s diner. I still managed to squeeze in a stretching class at my gym. My back especially needed it after last night’s Body Pump! After the class, I ran to 3 different stores to get all the ingredients for my Seafood Gumbo! The hardest to find was the okra, since it is considered an “exotic” product here.

Sorry the photo is so bad. Too much light… but you get the idea….

I used the recipe from a cookbook that was given to me by a lovely lady named Jane during my last trip to Dallas: “The Court of two sisters’ cookbook” (from the famous restaurant in the French Quarter). I think I might even have eaten there during my summer rotation at Tulane University in 2004!

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups canola oil
  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1.5 cups celery, diced
  • 1.5 cups green bell pepper, diced
  • 1.5 cups onion, diced
  • 3 cups okra, sliced
  • 3 tomatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 cups parsley
  • 6 scallions, diced
  • 3 pounds shrimps, peeled (the recipe also calls for oysters and crabs, but oysters were out of the question since my last all you can eat oyster dinner and I didn’t want to splurge on blue crab)
  • about 12-14 cups water
  • 3 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 2 big cloves of garlic
  • rice

In a large stock pot, make a dark roux from the flour and oil (takes about 20-25 min). Add seasonings and vegetables (except scallions) and cook until okra looks less stringy. Then add water and simmer until the gumbo thickens. The scallions and shrimp were added towards the end. Simmer some more and the serve over white rice.

So good! This recipe is definitely a keeper!

I served this dinner with some Jalapeno corn bread:

Again, not the best picture, but it gives you an idea of the light texture! There is something about corn bread that immediately takes me away from this busy urban life and  brings back sweet memories of southern summers….

Dessert was a new creation: Honey Pistachio Panna Cotta with Strawberries. I really love Panna Cottas, because they are so easy  to make, so versatile yet they always please everyone around the table. Today, I decided to get creative and came up with that recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 600 mL low fat half and half
  • 35 g brown sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, cut lenghtwise or one tsp vanilla extract
  • 100 mL greek yogurt
  • 2 Tbsp Raw Honey
  • 20g raw pistachi paste (about 1 Tbsp)
  • gelatin

Directions:

  • Heat the half and half and sugar in a saucepan. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.If using a vanilla bean, scrape the seeds from the bean into the cream and add the bean pod. Cover, and let infuse for 30 minutes. Remove the bean then rewarm the mixture before continuing.)
  • Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water in a medium-sized bowl and let stand 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Pour the very warm Panna Cotta mixture over the gelatin and stir until the gelatin is completely dissolved.
  • In a separate bowl mix the yogurt, honey and pistachio paste.
  • Pour the Panna Cotta mixture over the yogurt and mix well.
  • Let stand for 30min to cool down.
  • Divide the Panna Cotta mixture into indicidual cups, then chill them until firm (about 3 hours)
  • Top with diced strawberries.

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Again, sorry tonight’s pictures are so bad. Must have been all that wine my sis kept pouring in my cup. But I suppose bad pictures are better than none (considering I almost forgot taking them!). The food was excellent though… And that’s all what really matters.

Stay tuned: more cajun food tomorrow!

Have a great night!

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Pumped!

Feeling pumped today and I have to say a little sore!

I have to confess that despite my New Years resolution, I haven’t done very well on the fitness side…. Still lifted weights about 1-2 times a week but nothing more. And I really feel that my cardio-vascular fitness is not what it used to be. I recently came to realize that I needed to change my attitude towards exercise and make it fit in my busy schedule, make it a priority. Very often, I would feel too tired or, I guess, lazy to go to the gym, hop on the treadmill or lift after my workday. But when I would finally make it the gym I would always have a great time. I just need something to motivate me to go there! So I just thought back to when I started exercising 3 years ago, and what made me love it so much was group classes. I did everything: body sculpt, body attack, body pump, step, abs classes…..  And it was so much fun! So I thought I should try that again and last night I went to a late Body Pump class at my local gym. And it was everything I needed: energizing and challenging!

When I returned home I was craving veggies but I didn’t have much on hand! Luckily I found some frozen organic spinach in my freezer and quickly came up with a soup idea!

Spinach goat cheese soup:

In a medium pan, I cooked about 1 pound of spinach, 4-5 Tbsp of fresh goat cheese, 2 large cloves of garlic, 1 cup of low fat half and half, and enough water to obtain the desired consistency. Then I puréed the soup with a hand held blender. Seasoned with salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Yummy!

Served the soup with MORE fresh goat cheese (I never have enough!) and Pain Rustique from our favorite bakery! I don’t know about you but I love my goat cheese toped with fresh ground black pepper….

I also had a green cup to match my soup!

I ended up stuffing myself silly with that soup and was quite full when i went to bed!

I woke up hungry though and was ready for one of my favorite breakfasts: Oat Bran with banana and muesli!

And yes, it is as easy as it sounds: 1/2 oat bran cooked with fat free milk, toped with half a banana and 2 Tbsp of raisin/apple musli. Simple and delicious: a great way to start the day!

Tell me more about you: do you prefer group classes or do you workout on your own? What motivates you to exercise?

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Orange….

Happy monday everyone!

I had such a nice weekend! It was really fun to be home with the husband and just RELAX! On sunday morning, we went to the market together. It was freaking cold outside, but so sunny! We stocked up on produce for local growers, fresh goat cheese, organic eggs and multigrain bread. We came back home starving and were ready for a nice breakfast.

I couldn’t wait to try the Kerbey Lane Pumpkin Pancakes! And they were perfect:

Especially with this syrup:

I couldn’t resist taking pictures in the bright sunlight 😉

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Since we woke up so late, we skipped lunch altogether but mid afternoon, I prepared some yummy treats: Yogurt Carrot muffins!

The husband started eating them right out of the oven!

I didn’t have muffin liners, so I “made” my own using parchment paper. The muffins ended up looking really funky but it was better than risking having them stick to the pan.

Looks so bright on that photo!

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour + 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup agave syrup
  • 2 cups grated carrots
  • 1/4 cup canola oil (was out of applesauce)
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • ½ cup plain yogurt (non fat)
  • ¾ cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 325°F.  Mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and salt into a large bowl. Stir in the agave syrup and carrots.

Beat in the oil, eggs and yogurt and stir in the walnuts. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool the muffins in the pan for 15 minutes.

They turned out really good! I think the yogurt help making them really moist! This recipe is definitely a keeper!

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By the time dinner time came, we were definitely hungry and ready for some protein! Since I had an 8 ounce-package of lean ground beef (organic, of course!), I decided to make up a new maakoud recipe. A Maakoud is a tunisian loaf made with ground meat, eggs and potatoes. But I tend to find the meat and potato mix quite boring and like trying new combinations. So last night was Pumpkin Maakoud!

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces lean ground beef
  • 4 eggs +2 egg whites, beaten
  • 2 hard boiled egg whites, chopped
  • 1 cup onion
  • 1 can pumpkin purée
  • Salt, pepper, cayenne pepper (1 tsp), nutmeg (1 tsp) and cinnamon (1 tsp).

Preheat oven at 350 °F.

In a pan, sauté the onion until tender, and add the ground beef until lightly browned. Remove from heat and place into a large bowl. Stir in the beaten eggs, the chopped hard boiled eggs, the pumpkin and the spices. Place mixture into 10″ loaf pan and bake until the blade of a knife inserted in the middle comes out dry. Place loaf on plate to cool down for 15 min.

Serve warm but not hot, with your veggies of choice.

I loved the pumpkin taste. Probably just as good as the time I made it with sweet potatoes!  I was hoping I would have leftovers for today’s lunch but the husband inhaled it! It would have tasted great in a sandwich…. Maybe next time….

Well, after all that orange food, I was quite surprised to not turn orange too!

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