Apple Flognarde

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Clafoutis. This famous baked dessert originates from Limousin, a region in south-central France. Any traditional clafoutis is made with unpitted black cherries (the pits are said to enhance the flavor) that are covered with batter and then baked in the oven, creating a soft and sweet custard-like dessert. It is best served warm, with a touch of confectioner’s sugar on top.

It is common to substitute a variety of fruits for the classic cherries when making a clafoutis. In this case, the clafoutis transforms into a flognarde. A flognarde is simply a clafoutis made with any fruit but cherries, such as apples, peaches or even plums.

Apple Flognarde

Adapted from the New York Times’ Recipes for Health

Ingredients

3 apples
0.5 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cognac

2 eggs
1/4 teaspoon vanilla sugar
1.5 ounces sugar
2.5 ounces flour, sifted
3 ounces low-fat milk
1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
tiny bit of salt

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Butter the pan you’ll be using for your flognarde.
2. Slice the apples and drizzle with the lemon juice. Melt the butter on a skillet and sauté the apple slices for 5 minutes on medium-heat. Add in the sugar and cinnamon and cook for an additional 8 minutes. Add the cognac within the last minute of sautéing.
3. Mix together the eggs and vanilla sugar. Add in the sugar and salt. Mix in the flour, slowly. Finally, add in the yogurt and milk and whisk until smooth.
4. Fill the flognarde pan with the cooked apples and pour the whisked mixture over them.
5. Bake for 35 minutes, until the knife you insert into the flognarde comes out clean.

Nutrition: Yields: 4 really big slices, Serving: 1 slice, Calories 232, Total Fat 6g, Sodium 53mg, Carbs 38.7g, Fiber 3g, Sugars 25g, Protein 7g

The flognarde’s tender apples and soft flan-like filling simply melt in your mouth, providing the perfect afternoon escape to that illusive, cozy and quiet European café. Oui oui…

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Moroccan White Truffles

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Moroccan food is one of the most exquisite and diverse in the entire world. Located right at the mouth of the Mediterranean, the country and its cuisine has been influenced by a variety of different peoples, ranging from the Romans and Arabs to the French, Spanish and Persians. Moroccan food is known for having flavorful spices, herbs and lots of olive oil. Some of their staple foods include figs, almonds, lamb, couscous and fish. For dessert, it is most common to eat fruit; however, sweets are just as popular.

I had been searching for a while for a simple and scrumptious truffle recipe. Luckily, I stumbled upon this amazing Moroccan coconut dessert!

Moroccan White Truffles

Adapted from Cooking with Alia 

Ingredients

3.5 ounces fat-free sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/8 cup tablespoons unsweetened shredded coconut
Whole macadamia nuts

Directions

1. Mix together the condensed milk and 2/3 cup unsweetened coconut. Let sit for 15 minutes.
2. Roll the mixture into little balls, insert half a macadamia nut in each one and roll in the 1/8 cup unsweetened coconut.
3. Cool in the refrigerator for 5 or more hours before serving.

Nutrition: Servings: 15 truffles, Serving: 1 truffle, Calories 47, Total fat 2g, Carbs 6.8g, Sugars 5.9g, Protein 1.2g

Oh la la! In my opinion, you can never have too much coconut!

Olivier Salad (Oливье)

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Although I’ve spent most of my life living in America, I was actually born and raised in Moscow. As a result, I’ve grown up eating (and still do eat) a ton of Russian food. A lot of my friends have asked me before: what exactly is Russian food? Vodka and caviar? Well, almost.

A lot of the cuisine is based on foods that come directly from the land: the ones that were able to withstand the long and cold Russian winters. Bread, fish, mushrooms, dairy, beef and pork and vegetables (especially cabbage, onions, beets and potatoes) are found in a lot of traditional Russian dishes. Mainly, we love our warm soups, our pirozhki (small stuffed rolls) and our sour cream.

Getting back to the point, I eat a lot of Russian food. It’s always hearty, filling and every bite makes you feel at home. Even though Russian servings sizes are typically very generous (with not a dollop of sour cream going to waste), my family and I have been lightening up some of our ingredients to stay on the healthy side. In no way are the dishes less delicious, they are just a little bit more well-behaved!

Here is my first Russian recipe that I have to share. So, let’s take a break from Paris for a moment and simply revel in this delicious Olivier salad.

Olivier Salad (Oливье)

Ingredients

3 large potatoes, cooked
5 baby carrots, cooked
1 pickle
2 eggs
1/2 yellow onion
1/2 fresh cucumber
1/2 cup sweet peas
1 pound medium-sized cocktail shrimp
2 tablespoons dill, finely chopped
2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
2 tablespoons non-fat Green yogurt
salt and seasoning, to taste

Directions

1. Cook your eggs (Boil for 15 minutes in a pot and then place in cold water for 5 minutes).
2. Finely dice your cucumber, carrots, pickle, onion and potatoes. Mix in a bowl and add in the shrimp.
3. Once your eggs have cooked, take off their shell and thinly dice them. Add them to the other ingredients.
4. Salt and season the salad and mix in the mayonnaise and yogurt.

This is a very popular dish that is served all the time, from family dinners to casual get-togethers to New Years Eve parties. Traditionally, it’s made with ham (not shrimp) and a lot more mayonnaise (obviously, without the yogurt).

I hope you like it as much as I do!

Homemade Chicken Bouillon

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At the center of every delicious and fragrant soup lies one key ingredient: a homemade bouillon. Although a beef or chicken stock can be easily purchased at any nearby store, taking the time to create one at home increases both the taste and nutrition of your dish tenfold.

The recipe is exceedingly simple and even though the bouillon takes hours to cook, you’ll only be directly involved for about 20 minutes!

Homemade Chicken Bouillon 

Ingredients

1 whole chicken
2 yellow onions, quartered
1 cup baby carrots
4 garlic cloves
water, filling your pot almost to the top

Directions

1. Clean out the inside of the chicken. Make sure to keep the neck of the bird.

2. Fill a pot with water, almost to the top, and add in the onions, carrots and whole chicken (including the neck bone). Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to a minimum and tightly close the lid.

3. After the bouillon has been cooking for 2 hours, remove the fat that has accumulated at the surface. Take out the chicken and remove all the loose meat (it’s not necessary to force all the meat off. Feel free to keep a bit on the bones). Add the bones back into the soup and continue to cook the bouillon at a low simmer for 8-12 more hours.

4. Remove the pot from the heat and cool in a tub (or sink) filled with cold water and ice for about 20 minutes. Place the pot in the refrigerator overnight.

5. In the morning, remove the fat from the surface. Strain the bouillon, pour desired amounts into zip-lock bags and place in the freezer. They will last for approximately 3 weeks.

Voilà!

Soupe à l’Oignon (French Onion Soup)

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We’ve all heard, tasted and marveled at the classic French onion soup, or Soupe à l’Oignon. The warm and filling body of a perfectly cooked French onion soup isn’t only able please a growling stomach, but it can even satisfy a longing soul (well, at least my Paris-obsessed one).

The soup itself dates back hundreds of years. Because of the high abundance of onions in the past, it actually began as a common meal for the poor. Only in the 18th century did France adopt the classic and popular onion soup recipe that is known around the world today. Traditionally, the soup consists of caramelized onions, beef bouillon and fresh baguette slices topped with melted cheese, typically gruyère.

French Onion Soup (Soupe À L’oignon)

Adapted from Simply Recipes 

Ingredients

3 yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
4 cups homemade chicken bouillon
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon dry thyme
1.5 tablespoons salt
pepper, to taste

1 fresh baguette
1 ounce gruyère
1 ounce gorgonzola

Oh, nothing can compare to the fresh crunch and inviting aroma of a warm baguette…

Directions

1. Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add the onions and caramelize on medium heat for 40 minutes. Add the sugar 10 minutes into the process. Add the minced garlic during the last minute of cooking.
2. Transfer the caramelized onions into a saucepan. Add the chicken bouillon, wine, bay leaf and thyme. Heat the saucepan on maximum heat, until the soup begins to boil. Once it boils, turn the heat down to low and leave covered for 35 minutes.
3. Heat the oven to 350°. Cut a baguette into eight 1/2 inch-thin slices, place them onto a pan and cook for 5 minutes. Once they have toasted, top with the gruyère and gorgonzola cheese and let them cook for another 3-4 minutes, until the cheese begins to slightly bubble.
4. Ladle the French onion soup into individual bowls, top each one with two baguette slices and serve.

Yields about four 1.5-cup servings.

I can only imagine cooking this up in a tiny Parisian apartment on a cold and rainy winter afternoon, letting the fragrance of sweet wine and onions fill the apartment as I cozy up in a comfortable armchair and watch the raindrops race down the window. Hearing only the rain pattering down on the roof and the honking of cars in the distance…

Almond, Chocolate and Coconut Macaroons

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Macaroons are quite the little world travelers. Originating in an Italian monastery many centuries ago, they made their way across the globe to places like France, Scotland, North America and even India and Turkey – each time being slightly altered to the please the tastes of the locals.

The original macaroon began as a simple cookie made from egg whites, sugar and almonds. It was adapted by France in the mid-1500’s and came into its fame in the 1900’s as the macaron – a light and delicate dessert consisting of two soft shells held together by a cream filling

In the US and UK, on the other hand, the coconut macaroon is the more well-known. Traditionally, it is a crispy cookie with a chewy and soft coconut interior.

There’s just something about the sweet aroma of shredded coconut that can instantly turn my day around. These delightful creations only took me a total of twenty minutes to prepare and cook, which is more than I could have asked for after a long day at work!

Almond, Chocolate and Coconut Macaroons

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living

Ingredients

1/3 cup sugar
1 egg white
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 teaspoon vanilla sugar
1/4 cup almonds, chopped
1 ounce semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350º.
2. Mix together the sugar and egg white in a bowl and then add the rest of the ingredients.
3. Scoop 1.5 tablespoon-sized heaps of the mixture and place on parchment paper.
4. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the bottoms and sides of the macaroons are golden-brown in color.
5. Let chill for 5 minutes.

Nutrition: Servings: 12 macaroons, Serving Size: 1 macaroon, Calories 62, Total Fat 3.4g, Carbs 7.6g, Sugars 5.8g, Protein 1.3g

Even though I loved these, I’m already planning for my next big dessert adventure. I’ll be attempting to bake the world-renown Parisian macarons. Oui oui, wish me good luck!

Cinnamon French Toast

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I love summer mornings. The sunlight streams in through the windows to illuminate the entire kitchen, the outside air is refreshingly cool from the night before, and the coffee machine makes its usual and lively buzzing to signal the start of a brand new day. But what puts the cherry on top of it all is the most important (and delicious) meal of the day: breakfast. Le petit dejeuner. 

Petit is the key word. Morning meals in France tend to be very light – usually pastries, fruit, or bread accompanied by coffee. This morning, I decided on creating my breakfast in the same manner by making French toast and complementing it with fresh strawberries and my usual hot coffee.

Cinnamon French Toast

Ingredients

2 slices Ezekiel Raisin and Cinnamon Bread
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 egg whites
2 tablespoons fat-free milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla sugar (or vanilla extract)
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon

Directions

1. Heat oil in a skillet on medium heat.
2. Mix together the egg whites, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon in a shallow bowl.
3. Dip the bread into the mixture, place on the skillet, and cook for about 2 minutes on each side.
4. Serve with fresh strawberries, maple syrup, confectioner’s sugar, or anything else you desire!

Nutrition: Servings: 2 toasts, Serving Size: 2 toasts, Calories 268, Total Fat 5g, Potassium 446mg, Carbs 43.6g, Fiber 6g, Sugars 14.6g, Protein 17.8g

Sitting outside on the patio, taking in the aroma from my coffee and looking down at my sugared toast and fresh strawberries, I could almost feel myself being transported to that little French cafe.

Ah, good morning to you, Paris!

Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna Rolls

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To be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of mushrooms. I usually find them to be either overly slimy or lacking in taste. But because I know that they’re a huge deal for those who actually have a seasoned palette (and for the French), I decided to give them another chance. Lasagna is one of my favorite meals and when I found the recipe for a healthy mushroom-filled lasagna roll in my cookbook, I couldn’t stop myself from jumping straight to making the dish.

Mushroom and Spinach Lasagna Rolls

Adapted from Cooking Light’s Lasagna Rolls with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce 

Ingredients for Lasagna

4 whole wheat lasagna noodles
2 teaspoons olive oil
Cooking spray
1/4 cup chopped onion
4 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced
3 ounces baby spinach, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 ounce mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons basil, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh red bell pepper, chopped

Ingredients for Sauce

1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
1 fresh tomato, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped

Directions

1. Cook the lasagna noodles without adding any salt to the water.
2. Spray a skillet with cooking spray and saute the chopped 1/2 red bell pepper on medium-to-low heat for 8-10 minutes.
3. Heat 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a seperate skillet. Saute the mushrooms, onion, spinach and minced garlic for 8-10 minutes on medium-heat.
4. Mix together the part-skim ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, basil, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon chopped red pepper.
5. Add the sauted mushroom mixture to the cheese mixture.
5. Place all the ingredients for the sauce (including the sauted red pepper) in a blender and mix until smooth, about 20 seconds.
6. Place 1.5 tablespoons of the cheese mixture on each noodle and roll it up. Place the filled noodles in a bowl and pour the blended sauce on top.
7. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and microwave for 5 minutes.

Nutrition: Servings: 4 lasagna rolls, Serving Size: 2 lasagna rolls, Calories 393, Total Fat 11.7g, Sodium 924mg, Carbs 58.3g, Fiber: 5.9g, Protein 19.3g

For someone who has been avidly avoiding mushrooms her entire life, it’s pretty amazing to admit how much I loved this dish. The zesty pepper sauce and creamy cheese filling worked perfectly together and even received several did-you-really-make-this-yourself looks from my family.

After successfully tackling this recipe, it’s safe to say that mushrooms are back on the table! Expect to see a lot more of them in the future!

Fresh Basil, Tomato and Mozzarella Bruschetta

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Bruschetta dates all the way back to the 15th century, to central Italy. According to my wonderful cookbook (Cooking Light), “Bruschetta comes from the Italian word bruscare, which means ‘to roast over coals.'” Traditionally, the famous antipasto is made up of sliced pieces of roasted bread. They are rubbed with garlic and then topped with a mix of olive oil and fresh ingredients, such as mozzarella, tomatoes, and herbs.

This afternoon, I heard Italy calling my name – it was asking me to make bruschetta. Even though I made a few changes to the age-old recipe (mainly because I was missing a few ingredients), I still tried to stay as true to the original idea as possible.

Fresh Basil, Tomato and Mozzarella Bruschetta

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis (Everyday Italian) 

Ingredients

3/4 tomato, diced
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons basil, chopped
1 fresh baguette
salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 375°.
2. Diagonally slice your baguette into six 1-inch pieces. Apply olive oil to both sides of the slices with a brush.
3. Lightly spray a pan with cooking spray and wait for it to heat up.
4. Add the diced tomatoes, salt, and pepper to the pan. Cook on medium-to-low heat for about 5 minutes. Add the chopped basil to the tomatoes during the last minute of cooking.
5. Place your baguette pieces into the oven. After about 5 minutes (or until slightly brown), sprinkle them with the mozzarella cheese. Wait approximately 2 minutes for it to melt.
6. Take the slices out of the oven, top with the tomato and basil mix, and enjoy them while they are still warm!

Nutrition: Servings 6 Bruschette, Serving Size 1 Bruschette, Calories 78.6, Total Fat 3.1g, Sodium 121.5 mg, Potassium 42.3 mg, Carbs 10g, Protein 3g

What else could you ask for other than a slice of warm, crispy bread covered in soft, melted cheese and fresh vegetables?

Buon Appetito! 

Banana Pancakes

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Can you believe I had never made pancakes on my own before today?

Embarrassing.

I woke up this morning and knew it was time. It was time to make pancakes. And it was time to make them healthy.

I went straight to one of my absolute favorite healthy-eating blogs, Peanut Butter and Peppers, and I let Jennifer guide me right through the entire process (because I was honestly clueless).

My family and I were utterly shocked that I was able to pull these off. For my first time making pancakes (and healthy ones at that), I couldn’t have been more pleased with the results!

I followed Jennifer’s Blueberry and Banana Pancake recipe step-by-step, but simply omitted the blueberries and added some extra banana!

Banana Pancakes

Ingredients

½ cup white whole wheat flour
½ cup plain Chobani
½ cup egg whites (4 egg whites if you’re using actual eggs)
1 and a ½ bananas, chopped
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon vanilla sugar (or vanilla extract)
¾ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt

Directions

1. Mix your dry ingredients in one bowl and wet ingredients (including the bananas) in another bowl.
2. Combine the wet and dry ingredients. Don’t over-mix if you want to have chunks of bananas in your pancakes.
3. Spray your pan with cooking spray and wait for it to heat up.
4. Take 3 tablespoons worth of batter and cook for 1.5-2 minutes on each side on medium heat.

What made my Sunday morning even more perfect? I was listening to Jack Johnson’s Banana Pancakes as I was cooking!

Nutrition: Servings 7 medium-sized pancakes, Serving Size 3.5 pancakes, Calories 255, Total Fat 1.2g, Sodium 137 mg, Potassium 458 mg, Carbs 43g, Sugars 15.8g Protein 20.8g

These pancakes tasted incredible. I glazed them over with a bit of maple syrup and topped them with the left-over chopped banana.

I believe my next goal will be to tackle a chocolate pancake. Mmm, let’s see if it will taste anything as good as these.