Healthy Veggie-full Falafels with Garlic and Mint Sauce

I should probably apologize for the long break but I was on holidays… yes, again, I know… Truth is, I do have a lot of holidays and on this particular one I had a lot of fantastic food (home-made by my mum, so obviously it doesn’t really get any better than that) but I did not think of taking any pictures… Lazy Pepe! Now the good news is that it did give me a lot of ideas for vegetarian and pescetarian dishes and I cannot wait to try them out!
On a completely unrelated note, I love falafels but I often find them too dry and the ones you buy in stores are just full of preservatives that really have no buisness there. So for a good long while, I have been searching for the recipe. I never found it so I created my own, full of vegetables and baked instead of deep-fried, therefore healthier and quite diet.

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Well… yes, there’s one missing in the left corner but hey, no one is perfect!! So I usually cook a big batch of them and freeze them in smaller bags, enough for me and hubby -who is as crazy about them as I am- for one meal.

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As a meat eater, I used to be quite the Kebab-eater. Especially drunk at four in the morning in the Parisian Latin quarter. Well…. once again, no one is perfect right?! But really what I loved about those sandwiches was the white, creamy, garlic and mint sauce that comes with it. After a few attempts, I got both the sauce and the falafels right and it has now become one of my favorite dish (actually having it again for dinner tonight…) I use either kebab bread or simply warm wraps that I fill with veggies and lettuce but they are also great in a sandwich or a burger and really any type of sauce.
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Home-made Healthy Falafels:
For about 50 pieces
-4 carrots
-2 large zucchinis
-500g of chick peas
-1 tsp of sesame oil
-1 tbsp of chopped coriander (fresh or frozen)
-1 tbsp of chopped parsley (fresh or frozen)
-1 medium egg
-40g of plain flour
-2 tsp of ground cumin
-1 tsp of ground paprika
-a pinch of salt an pepper
Grate the carrots and zucchinis, crush the chick peas and combine all the ingredients. I do not own a mixer do I do it by hand but it is quite long so if you have a mixer I recommand you use it! Then take a bit of the mix in your hand and form small patties that you place on baking paper. Pre-heat the oven on medium heat and let cook slowly untill golden.
Yogourt, Mint and Garlic Sauce:
For 2 kebabs:
-150g low fat yogourt
-1 garlic clove
-mint leaves (fresh is better)
-juice of a 1/4 of a lemon
Crush the garlic and mix all the ingredients. Refrigerate for an hour before using. Bon Appétit!

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Seared Salmon on Leek Fondue

To celebrate my father in-law’s birthday, we went to what hubby and I call our restaurant. It is called Vins et Terroirs and is a lovely place in the latin quarter of Paris. The price range is really reasonable and the food very authentic and true to French tradition. I highly recommend you to pop by if you are in the area (they even have a vegan option, crazy!). It was the first time I went there on my pescetarian diet and there was a choice between 3 different fish. I chose the salmon which was served with rice and a creamy tarragon sauce. Delicious!

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My in-laws left the next day so we decied to take it slow after the week we just had. Hubby opted for some leftover lasagne that were in the freezer and I had some home-made falafels (recipe coming soon!). The next day as I woke up, I realised that hubby, that naughty one, had not closed the freezer properly… Drama!! Some saussages were defrosted so he had them (he had a lot of saussages actually!) As well as a piece of salmon. Facing the emergency of the situation, I had no choice but to treat myself for dinner with seared Salmon on melted leeks or Fondue as we call it in France. Leek Fondue is very popular and traditionally served with fish or sea scallops.

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Salmon with Leek Fondue:
For 3 people:
-4 leeks
-1 small tsp of butter
-20cl of white wine
-20cl of water
-2 tbsp of light cream
-salt and pepper to taste
The key to fondue is to bring the leeks to be melted. When you slice them, keep only the tender white part and cut them first in the length then slice them really finely. The finer the slices, the quicker it will melt.
In a pan on high heat, heat up half the butter before adding the leeks. You’ll need to stir quite frequently for the leeks not to burn. Once soft, add the water and cover for 15minutes. Take the cover off and let the water evaporate completely. Check the leeks, by then they should be really, really soft. If it is not the case yet, add more water and repeat the process.
Once the leeks are nice and soft, add the white wine and salt and pepper to taste. Again, let it evaporate completely. Add the cream just before serving. For the salmon, I like mine crispy outside and almost raw inside, just grap a pan (you won’t need any oil or butter since salmon is high in fat and will release its own oil with the heat) and cook to taste. I do 3 minutes on each side for a 4cm thick piece. Bon Appétit!

Fisherman’s Vegetables and Wine Stew

We’ve had really bad weather lately and what is there to do on a gloomy and rainy day? Cook of course! And preferably something hearty that will make you feel better… So last thursday I decided to cook one of my winter favourites (I know it is the heart of summer but the weather in Paris has a mind of its own…), a creamy fish and vegetables stew.
Before I hand out this recipe, let me start with sharing something that I feel is of the utmost importance. Now, let’s be honest, how much food do we waste? I have to admit that yesterday I threw away five tomatoes and a capsicum that I totally forgot about and let me tell you, it was not a nice feeling. So there is the food that we -as consumers- throw away and we can all work on that. I like to think that hubby and I are doing quite well on that front but then again, yesterday was the proof that we are probably not doing good enough… Then there is the food that is being thrown away just because it does not fit in the calibration established by supermarkets. And the amount of fruits and veggies that are thrown away is just shocking. Now, if you have two minutes, please do watch the video below explaining an incredibly clever innovation a French supermarket came up with. It will not solve the whole food-waste problem but at least, they are trying. Please do not hesitate to share this video and to talk about it in you local supermarkets. All it takes is for the right person to listen for it to develop in other supermarkets. People are militating for it to become France-wide, why not enter the fight to make it global?

So, now that I have contributed to this cause I find quite amazing, it is time to talk about food and this dish I love (which, guess what? Can be cooked with Ugly Veggies!!!). I had it with rice because I was absolutely starved but really, it is a main dish in itself.
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Fisherman’s Stew:
For two people:
-2 carrots
-2 leeks
-2 onions
-3 leaves of laurel, dried (optional)
-20cl of water
-20cl of fish stock
-1 glass of cooking white wine
-2 tsp of corn starch
-2 tsp of light cream
-1 small tsp of butter or oil
Slice the carrots, onions and leeks. In a hot pot, heat up the butter (or oil) and add the onions, carrots and leeks. Cook until the onions are golden brown. Add the laurel, the water and cook on high heat for 15 minutes. Then add the wine and fish stock before cooking for another 15 minutes. Add the corn starch and stir until the sauce has thickened. Add the cream just before serving. Bon Appétit!

Sautéd Mushrooms with Garlic and Parsley

We had my in-laws over for dinner last night. I roasted a chicken for the meat eaters and cooked one of my father in-law’s all-time favourite at his request: “Soph, you wouldn’t want to do those mushroom, would you?”. Now, I used to cook this dish every now and then for him when we lived in Australia and even converted a mushroom-hater with it. It is nice and easy to make and most importantly, bloody delicious! While cooking, it already looks and smell fabulous:

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I did what I thought would be a big batch of it, except that I forgot how much mushrooms reduce when cooked… hum, I’ll remember that for next time! Anyways, everyone managed to have some and for my father in-law and myself, I served them with Lazy Potatoes (see recipe here https://pepethepescetarian.wordpress.com/2014/08/05/french-style-lazy-potatoes-and-green-beans/ ) and a simple green salad with avocado and sundried tomatoes. It was a hit!
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Sautéd Mushrooms French Style:
For 4 people:
-1 kg of mushrooms
-4 garlic cloves
-1 tbsp of fresh (or frozen) parsley
-2 tbsp of butter
-2 tbsp of breadcrumbs
Chop the mushrooms quite finely and crush the garlic. Heat up a third of the butter in a frying pan on high heat and once hot, add the mushroom. Cook until the mushrooms’ water has evaporated and the mushrooms are nice and soft. Add the garlic and stir for 2 minutes. Add the parlsey and salt and pepper to taste and stir again for two minute. Add the rest of the butter along with the bread crumbs and cook for 5-6 minutes stirring occasionally before serving. Bon Appétit!

Better and Healthier Vegge-full Mock Lasagne

Alright so, I’m going to be honest and say it: I don’t really enjoy pasta. Yes, I know, everyone loooves pasta so I probably should as well. It’s not that I have not tried to like it, I really did and I would actually love to love pasta but in truth, I just don’t see the point…! I eat pasta every now and then because it is quick and convenient but that’s about it… I’m probably internationally labelled as the pasta-hater by now but well, can’t change what we are, right?
So as I’ve said in a previous post, my in-laws are in Paris this week, renting a flat in Boulogne. Hubby’s always loved my cooking but there is one thing that I have never done as well as Marg -my mother in law- and that is her home made beef lasagne (even I admit it, she knows how to make it and mine is but a pale -and failed!- imitation…). To please my husband, she had us over for dinner last night and cooked her famous dish. It was a great idea and to lighten the load, I offered to bring the vegan/vegetarian dinner for my father in law and myself. I initially thought of vegetarian lasagne but then again, there’s my pasta issue. So keeping the principle of layers and hearty sauces, I innovated and came up with this dish: a fake lasagne with sliced potatoes and zucchini instead of pasta with a basquaise veggetables filling. And wow, my friends, WOW! Maybe one of my new favorite vegge-full dish! So here are the pics, followed as always by the how-to…
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I made two small dishes of it because I wanted parmigiano on mine (even though I don’t usually eat cheese and am therefore a national shame for France as well as an internationally shocking pasta-hater…) and did a fully vegan one for Ross, my father in-law. I built it just like I would have lasagne…
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… One layer of potatoes and zucchini, one layer of sauce, and so on… The finish result looks like this, the one with sliced potatoes on top being the vegan one and the crispy-looking one being the vegetarian.
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So I guess that first of all, I should release my basquaise recipe. Those familiar with this dish will understand my excitement about it and those of you who are not, believe me when I say it is a Must-Do vegetable dish! The veggies sort of melt together, and all I can say is that it looks as bad as it is good!
French Basquaise:
For 4 people
-2 zucchini
-1 eggplant
-1 red capsicum
-6 tomatoes
-3 onions
-5 garlic cloves
-10 green olives, pitted
-2 tbsp of tomato paste
-1 tsp of olive oil
-a pinch of dried thyme
-a pinch of dried oregano
-3 large glasses of water
Alright, so first you roughly cube the zucchinis, eggplant, tomatoes, capsicum, and onions. Crush the garlic and on a heated pan, pop in the olive oil, th chopped onions and the garlic. Then add the cubed tomatoes, eggplant, zucchinis and capsicum on high heat stirring occasionally until the vegges are really soft, almost melted. Add the water and tomato paste and let it cook until all the water has evaporated. Slice the olives thinly and add them to the veggetables along with the thyme and oregano. Lower the heat, add salt and pepper to taste, and let it cook for 10minutes. You can use the basquaise vegetables as a filling for lasagne (or mock lasagne…) but it is traditionally served with rice. I love it with grilled fish, but it is so nice that I often eat it on its own.
Mock Lasagne:
For 2 people:
-2 large potatoes
-1 medium zucchini
Slice the potatoes and zucchini thinly and parboil them before using them as lasagne sheets. The pictures, I believe are self-explanatory. I had zucchini at home yesterday but you can also use grilled eggplant. Bon Appétit!

French Style Lazy Potatoes and Green Beans

My parents in-law arrived on saturday from Australia to visit us for a week. Since then, life has been quite busy and food-wise, it can be resumed to countless bottles of wine and restaurant meals. Indulging is the first word that comes to mind and as much as I love having them over, I have not been doing the best diet wise!
Saturday was the first time I went to a restaurant on the pescetarian diet. My father in law being a vegan, we chose to go to Noura, a Lebanese restaurant where we knew we could easily find something for him. As much as vegetarian food is accessible in France, vegan food can be a bit tricky to get in traditional French restaurants… So Noura it was and I had falafels and moutabal (an eggplant and sesame puree)
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It was lovely but so filling that I gave most of my food away to hubby. Being on a diet, that was the begining of the end for me… Next, we went to the restaurant where my husband works, a Tex-Mex Grill. Now I thought I may have trouble getting a meat-free dish but the Vegetarian Fajitas on the menu did the trick!
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You may think that I did alright but bear in mind that with every meal, we had a few bottles of wine! Feeling bloated and with everyone tired from the days activities, we had a quiet night at home on Sunday where I cooked some grenadier fish we bought on the market. Hubby who isn’t usually the biggest fish eater wanted to try it, and may I say that he actually enjoy it? I simply pan fried it (should have baked it as it totally fell appart in my sticky -yet supposedly non-stick frying pan- so I guess we had scrambled fish really…) and added a dash of lemon juice before serving, it was delicious. For the side, I didn’t feel like working too hard so I made what we call lazy potatoes with french style green beens, the french style making regular beens extraordinary, I love them this way so I shall share the recipe (isn’t she nice?!) As for the lazy potatoes, they aren’t called lazy for no reason, it is the simplest thing in the world but a nice change from boiled or sautéd potatoes…
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French Style Green Beens:
For two people:
-300-400grams of grean beans (fresh, of course!!)
-3 shallots, peeled and chopped
-1 small tsp of butter
First, parboil the green beens, just enough to start the cooking process but leaving them nice and crunchy. I usually go 4-5 minutes once the water is boiling. In a pot, put the butter and when hot, add the shallots. Stir constantly until shallots ate translucid then ad the green beens. Cook for about two minutes, stirring and it’s ready. The butter and shallots add this little something extra to the beans who melt in the mouth. Bon Appétit!
Lazy Potatoes:
So I count one medium potato per person. And that is all you need… you are lazy remember? All you have to do is wash them, cut them in half (in the length) and pop them into the oven (cut side up) on medium heat. The lazy buggers will slowly bake while you can go and do whatever you want. It takes about 35-40 minutes in the oven and you know it is ready when the top of the potatoes are brown. This way of cooking creates a nice crispy top to the potatoes but leaves the flesh tender and, all that without adding any fat! If you want to indulge, add a dollop of cream, chives and a slice of smoked salmon, it is simple and amazingly good!!

Delicious Vegetable Stir Fry

Before I start, can I share with you how proud I am of my big guy? We went out for a drink in the early evening and the waitress brought us, along with our drinks, a plate of small ham sandwiches. I was not going to eat them so told him to go ahead and dig in. His answer was that he would not eat meat today so we might as well offer them to the table next to us…! Yay hubby, you are nailing it!!
Now, about dinner… Continuing on the Asian food theme, I cooked a vegetable stir-fry for dinner yesterday. I’ve always loved those but found it hard to get a well balanced recipe. Exploring and playing with different ingredients, I finally ended up having a recipe that I love. And I hope you will too!
Once you have all the ingredients, it is very quick and easy to make. I always start with the sauce which once ready looks like that:
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Then I cut up all the vegetables. Once again, it is really easy to adapt this recipe, you can add baby corn, bamboo or chinese cabbage for example, almost everything works. Last night’s veggie choice was:
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Even raw it is mouth watering. I find that the more colorful your dish, the more appetizing it is. And on top of that, it is really healthy. Once everything was cooked, I added some plain white rice on the side but noodles are lovely with it too. So here’s what we had for dinner last night, followed by the how-to…
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Healthy Vegetable Stir-fry:
For 2-3 people:
-2 carrots
-1 red capsicum
-a big handful of brocoli
-a big handful of fresh green beens
-3 onions
-4 cloves of garlic, crushed
-a handful of chinese mushrooms
-1small tsp of olive oil for the pan
For the sauce:
-5 tbsp of soy sauce
-4tbsp of oyster sauce
-5tbsp of water
-1tbsp of sesame oil
-red chili flakes to taste
-salt and pepper
-1small tbsp of fresh ginger, crushed
-1small tbsp of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
-optional: 1tsp of corn starch in 2tbsp of water, if you like your sauce thicker…
Mix all the ingredients for the sauce and leave aside while you chop all the veggies. Heat up a pan (or a wok if you have) with the olive oil. Add the onion and the crushed garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stirring. Then add the mushrooms and cook for another minute before adding the rest of the vegetables. Cook for 2-3 minutes, constantly stirring then add the sauce and let it simmer for another minute. It is now ready, enjoy the smell, the colours and the fantastic taste!

Vietnamese Style Vegetable Sandwich

After last night’s excesses, hubby and I had decided to forget about public transports and take the dog along for a 7km walk through the forest to reach the town of Versailles (an absolute must-see if you are visting France by the way!). Before sharing my Vietnamese inspired recipe, let me get through last night.
My mother and sister are holidaying in Normandy so my dad and brother in law were home alone in Paris, working. We invited them over for dinner for a barbecue, we have the smallest flat in the world but hubby bought a few days ago the smallest barbecue there is so it was the perfect occasion to try it up. Now, he is really proud of his BBQ so here is the picture (I’d probably get in trouble if I didn’t proudly present it to you…)

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They all love their meat so meat it was, and I prepared myself some baked saithe fillets on basquaise vegetables (basquaise is a traditional southern French way of cooking vegetables, absolutely lovely. I’ll be sure to share the recipe as soon as I can get a decent picture of a home made basquaise dish!) Anyways, as soon as our guests arrived, my resolve left and I ended up having a couple of these

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We had a nice evening, the wine was lovely and I don’t regret having had some but the guilt is still here, lurking… Oh, and I also had a tiny slice of this yummy bugger, just because…

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So to fight the guilt back, we walked to Versailles. By the time we came back home we were starving and with the heat in Paris at the moment I wanted something really fresh. I thought about those yummy Vietnamese sandwiches my husband and I grab whenever we go in the asian quarter, they are made with baguette, filled with the meat of your choice and a mix of vegetables, herbs and sauces. I decided to have a go at doing a vegan version of them as I knew it would be nice and quick as well as really tasty. I had mine with a side salad to balance the spicy dressing in the sandwich as in the photo below.

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Vietnamese Style Veggie Sandwich:
-Half a baguette (traditionnally but any bread will do if you toast it)
-1 tbs of light mayo
-sriracha sauce to taste (the more the better in my opinion!)
-grated carrots, a big handful
-cucumber, cut in thin sticks
-fresh corriander leaves to taste (I’m not usually a fan but really works in this, I used a whole branch)
-lettuce, a few leaves
I added red onions because I love it but it is not in the traditional Vietnamese sandwiches so, your call.
It is a sandwich so I really wont teach you anything about the way to go about it. I personnally spread the mayo on one side first, add srirachi, then one ingredient at a time before adding more srirachi and folding it back.
It is a very healthy and quick meal to do, I loved it and hubby -who had some leftover raviolis for lunch- managed to grab a bite of my sandwich and really liked it. I gave you the traditional recipe but of course it can be meddled with for personalized goodness. I highly recommend that you give it a shot and hope those of you who do, enjoy it as much as I did!!

‘Running’ did she say?

Back home after my first running ‘session’ in more than two years, I am now reflecting on it (well laughing out loud about it is probably more appropriate…). Oh boy was I pathetic!

I took our dog to the park, we are lucky enough to have an enormous and beautiful park nearby -which is not that common in the Parisian region- where we often take the dog for a walk. A walk, not a run… I really enjoy walking and do it a lot. Neither my husband nor I have a need for a car so we just chose not to own one. Walking is not a problem. Now running… it’s another story!

My first shot was probably the least pathetic but believe me, I did not shine as jogger of the year either! It took me two minutes to be out of breath and four to be so red-faced that other joggers (who were waaaay faster than me and looked like they were just having the time of their lives!) looked at me with a mix of concern, pity, and amusement. After six minutes I was drenched in sweat and finally at ten minutes and fifteen seconds I stopped (I am very proud of the fifteen seconds, I had to mention it!).

At this point I was torn between disappointment in lasting only ten minutes at 7k/hour (yeah, I know I was also alarmingly slow…) and pride. You may think there is not much to be proud of but you know, it’s the little things, like actually putting those training shoes on this morning or not stopping after two minutes when I thought I was about to stop breathing. I walked for about two kilometers before finding it in me to give running another try. So off I went thinking that I just had to do better this time because really, doing worse was not exactly possible, right?

Well I was wrong. Oh. So. Wrong. Three minutes in, the song that my Ipod  randomly chose was really not motivating enough so I looked down to pass it, let go of my water bottle, tripped on it and half fell against a tree. Great job, a three minutes run and a damaged ego. But Pepe doesn’t give up so easily. I had gone to the park to try and workout so I kept going,  this time doing intervals starting with  one minute run/one minute rest and then increased until I got to another ten minutes run. By then I had been to the park for about two hours, and was panting more than my dog was so I decided to go home. So all in all, not a great success. But I tried it and will keep on trying until I too can run kilometers on end and look like I’m loving it!

For the record, my dog actually tried to do my leg when I was stretching afterwards so I guess that the picture below totally applies to me. Except for the fact that I have no illusions about what I look like when I’m running!

1st run

 

Bruschettas Goodness

Yesterday was my first day off the meat (and also off the booze, although I highly doubt my booze-free days will be as permanent as my meat-free diet!). Having just gone back from holiday I had a lot of things to do, including getting actual food as the only things in our fridge were a beyond-rotten opened jar of artichokes and a couple of bottles of water. Hmmm Bon Appetit!
So off we went and to do the groceries and buy a basketful of vegetables. I ran a couple of other errands and munched quickly on some raw veggies and fresh baguette for lunch (the advantages of living in France… freshly baked crispy baguettes or bread sticks are the best!) while unpacking and getting about other unpleasant post-holiday tasks.
Dinner was another story though, hubby -who did the weekday vegetarian with me- has decided to tag along, not for the whole pescetarian diet but for parts of it, eating more vegetables and less meat than usual. I made us a very healthy dinner with tomatoes and red onions bruschettas and a big veggie salad on the side. It was both yummy and filling. One of the frequent argument against vegetarianism is that a lot of people assume it won’t be filling enough or tasty enough. Well, even my husband (whom I privately call ‘the big guy’ and has an appetite that matches his nickname) was left wondering if he would finish off his plate! For those of you who are interested, this is what it looked like before i greedily dug in:

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And the photo really doesn’t give it justice! We both really enjoyed it and felt no frustration whatsoever. It is a fully vegan meal and here is how to make it (it is the easiest thing in the world!)
Tomatoes Bruschettas:
For one person you will need:
-a couple of slices of bread (i used bread from the bakery but you can actually find bruschetta bread about anywhere)
-a clove of garlic
-a large tomato
-a red onion
-salt and pepper
-balsamic vinegar glaze (optional)
Now, how to? Crush the garlic and spread it on your slices of bread then under the grill in you oven. They must be crispy and light brown so count about 5mins under the grill. Dice the tomato and the red onion and mix them together with a pinch of salt and pepper. When the bread slices are ready, spread some tomato and onion mix on the slices before adding the balsamic glaze.
It is a very easy and basic recipe and the great thing is, you can adapt it with different ingredients for the topping. For those of you who try it, don’t hesitate to let me know how you went and what you think of it!
Filling Vegge Salad:
For one person you will need:
-a handful of lettuce
-half a potatoe, boiled
-a small handful of green beens
-half an avocado
-5 sundried tomatoes, cut in half
-half a shallot finely choppes
So toss it all on a plate and add the dressing of your choice. It is lovely, colorful and filling. It is also very healthy so you can double the quantity and make it a main dish without the bruschettas.