In My Fridge: Week of April 13 + Caramelized Fennel

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Today I visited a new Farmer’s Market to scope out their fresh produce and see if they had more to offer. Before I went in, I quickly glanced at a new cookbook in my car that my sister recently got me. It is called Plenty and it focuses on delicious and interesting vegetable recipes. I was really excited when I saw this gorgeous photo of Caramelized Fennel because I have been wanting to learn how to cook with fennel. So, the inspiration for my trip to the market was this recipe that called for fennel, dill, lemon, garlic and goat cheese.

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Just as I was leaving the market, I saw this goat cheese stand with beautiful mason jars filled with goat cheese, olive oil and herbs. The guy let me try a few flavors and then informed me that the goat cheese I wanted was $12 for a large jar. Unfortunately, I only had $3 left in cash :(. What is a girl to do in this situation? Clearly, walking .5 a mile to the nearest ATM is the only solution. I nearly ran back to the market  to make sure there would still be goat cheese left. You can shake your head and laugh at me now, but truly, the goat cheese was too good to pass up.

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Seriously? Seriously?! OMG. This was my reaction when I finished making this recipe and finally got to try it. It is SO good. I am thrilled to start making my way through pages and pages of delicious vegetable recipes. All I can really say is go buy yourself some fennel (even if you have never tried it) and make this dish.

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Caramelized Fennel with Goat Cheese- in the book Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi- Serves 4

Ingredients:

4 small fennel bulbs

3 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter

3 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to finish

2 tbsp sugar ( I used organic cane sugar)

1 tsp fennel seeds ( I didn’t have these on hand, so I went without)

coarse sea salt and black pepper

1 garlic clove, crushed

3/4 cup roughly chopped dill (leaves and stalks)

5 oz young and creamy goat cheese

grated zest of 1 lemon

Directions:

1. Start by preparing the fennel bulbs. First take off the leafy fronds and keep them for the garnish. Then slice off some of the root part and remove any tough or brown outer layers, making sure the base still holds everything togeher. Cut each bulb lengthways into 1/2 inch thick slices.

2. Melt half the butter with half the oil in a large frying pan placed over high heat. When the butter starts to foam add a layer of sliced fennel. Do not overcrowd the pan and don’t turn the fennel over or stir it around in the pan until one side has become light golden, which will take about 2 minutes. Then turn the slices over using tongs and cook for a further 1 to 2 minutes. Remove fro the pan. Continue with the rest of the fennel, using up the remaining butter and oil.

3. Once all the fennel has been seared, add the sugar, fennel seeds and plenty of salt and pepper to the pan. Fry for 30 seconds, then return all the fennel slices to the pan and caramelize gently for 1 to 2 minutes (they need to remain firm inside so just allow them to be coated in the melting sugar and seeds). Remove the fennel from the pan and leave to cool down on a plate.

4. To serve, toss the fennel in a bowl with the garlic and dill. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Arrange on a serving plate and dot with spoonfuls of goat cheese. Finish with a drizzle of oil and a scattering of lemon zest. Garnish with fennel fronds. Serve at room temperature.

 

Blueberry Coconut Muffins

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I normally shy away from eating muffins because they typically just don’t do it for me. They are either too dry, lacking in flavor, or a calorie death trap. Who knew muffins could pack 500 + calories? Yikes! Soooooo usually I choose to spend my calories on something more worthwhile. HOWEVER, I recently found myself at work needing to come up with a muffin recipe and wanted to develop a recipe without butter and full of flavor. This Blueberry Coconut Muffin is the delicious end result. I hope you try it out in your kitchen!

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Blueberry Coconut Muffins: Makes 14 muffins

Ingredients:

1/3 cup coconut oil, melted

¼ cup brown sugar, lightly packed

¾ cup raw cane sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour

1 cup rolled oats + a small handful for topping

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground ginger

½ cup almond milk

1 ¼ cups frozen blueberries

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a muffin tin with muffin liners and spray the muffin liners with baking spray
  3. Melt the coconut oil and set aside. Place both sugars in a large bowl, add the coconut oil and stir until well combined. Add 1 egg at a time, beating after each addition. Add the vanilla and combine.
  4. Combine the flour, oats, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger
  5. Next, gradually add the dry mix to the wet mix. Then add the almond milk and stir well. Lastly, add the frozen blueberries. (Your batter might turn a little blue at this point. Totally ok!).
  6. Spoon mixture evenly into the muffin liners and sprinkle with rolled oats
  7. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes or until the middle is set and slightly springy
  8. Place muffins on a cooling rack, cool  for a few minutes and eat!

 

Galicia

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This post was written by none other than my partner in food and travel adventures, Daniel!

Growing up in a Spanish family in southern California, there were three trends from my childhood that my friends could not relate to: An interest in futbol over football, lunch at 3pm and many trips to Spain to see my family and friends. I love Madrid for its vibrancy, nightlife and sense of humor. But my (not-so-secret) favorite part of the country is in the northwest, Galicia. So when I got to take Jacqui on an introductory trip to Spain, I put this Celtic, culinary landmark high on the must-visit list.

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The region is known for being the final destination of the Catholic pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago, The Way of St. James, but I have a feeling most make the pilgrimage for another reason: the sea food. Octopus, shellfish, goose barnacles, you name it. If it thrives in the rough Atlantic high-surf areas, Galicians know how to cook it in a way you’ll never taste anywhere else.

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I was happy I got to take Jacqui to my favorite restaurant in the world in downtown A Coruña, Lois. Our fantastic hosts for the weekend, Ramon and Nico, also introduced us to a new go-to spot I almost feel bad revealing in a blog post, A Pupeira de Melide. The dish that most represents the welcoming people, Celtic music and collective passion for the sea that you must try here is the Pulpo a la Gallega. This local octopus dish is served boiled, chopped up and served on its own, with a twist of rock salt and smoked, sweet paprika. Wash it down with the local white wine, albariño, and you’re living good.

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To say we were lucky to have amazing hosts to show us these spots on this visit would be a bit of an understatement. Ramon and Nico are the type of friends you wish you had in every city in the world. They both took time off work to make sure we ate every good local dish, stopped at the best bars to grab the local beers poured just right, and sat to gaze at the rough ocean at every small beach. Our best memory from this trip was a walking tour through the river and wine country. We can’t wait to return them the favor many times over.

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Jacqui looks pretty scared to try the fried sardines, but ended up loving them!

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Pulpo (Octopus) – my favorite food, if done right.

In My Fridge This Week

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As I was driving home this morning, I remembered the Farmer’s Market was open today and I decided to make a quick stop, which may or may not have been inspired by a recent conversation with my sister about our mutual desire to go more often.

IMG_7188I can’t eat the same thing every week. I mean, sure I have staples that I do tend to buy pretty often, but I need something new and exciting to spark my interest. Or else, eating becomes monotonous and more of a chore than a pleasure. Hence, I try to pick out something different each week to inspire me in the kitchen.

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This week’s fun ingredients include: baby kale, spearmint, persian cucumbers, swiss chard, and black lentils :). I made a salad for dinner with the baby kale, persian cucumbers, tomatoes, parsley and garlic along with a few things I already had on hand. Hope you all have an inspired and delicious week!

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Madrid, Part 2

IMG_6582One of my first lessons I learned in Madrid was to embrace a different food culture than my own. This included adopting a later lunch time (we usually ate between 3-5:00 pm) and eating tapas style for dinner by bar hopping and trying different tapas along the way, which is very different than my usual sit down for a main meal event.

IMG_6567I must admit, I am not the best with change, but I quickly grew fond of the lifestyle in Madrid. We slept in, went jogging around the city, ate tomato bread and drank delicious coffee for breakfast, we napped, went to late lunches, walked A LOT, treated ourselves with churros and dipping chocolate, lounged at a pool with incredible views of the city and thought about where we would get the best tapas for dinner. Not a bad way to spend your time. I mean, really, who can complain about getting a bucket of beer and manchego cheese mid-day?

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IMG_6677We also celebrated my birthday a little early since we couldn’t be together on the actual day. Daniel surprised me with a special dinner at a rooftop restaurant. It wasn’t easy to leave Madrid, but we were headed to the north of Spain, which I was greatly looking forward to! Daniel will be writing the next post :)!

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Madrid, Part 1

photo 3Daniel made it to Madrid a few days before I did so that he could catch up with some old friends and enjoy more time in the city. Luckily, when I flew into Madrid, he met me at the airport and knew exactly how to get around. After a quick stop (nap time for me) at our hotel, I was ready for my first culinary experience to kick off this epic culinary trip of Spain and Italy.

photo-31Nearly everything you see here was consumed. We couldn’t help ourselves, it was soooo good! We ordered Patatas Bravas (fried potatoes w/ spicy tomato sauce), Gazpacho, Goat Cheese Salad w/ caramelized onions and Brie Toast w/ jamon. Later that night we met up with some of Daniel’s friends and went out for tapas and a long walk around the city. IMG_6615

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Avocado Toast + Confession

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Soooooo……. I distinctly remember getting home from my trip to Europe and being completely intent on uploading many pictures from my trip, trying a ton of new recipes and updating the blog more frequently. And then suddenly, 3 months have passed since my last post! Oh man. There were many times I wanted to post, but didn’t feel I had the time to do it justice or rework a recipe until I liked it enough.

Why did 3 months pass? It is a LONG story, but it can be summed up by a few major life events: job searching, apartment hunting, moving ( I live in LA now!) and starting a new job! I have been overwhelmed for sure and I finally feel like I am able to breathe again. With my recent crazy schedule, cooking and trying out new recipes kind of got pushed aside and I would like to bring that back to my attention. Actually, for real this time, I WILL be updating more frequently.

Until then, try making delicious avocado toast with a fried egg. This is my go to easy weekend breakfast :).

Avocado Toast w/ Fried Egg: Serves 1

Ingredients:

1/2 ripe avocado

1 piece sprouted & toasted wheat bread

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 egg

salt, pepper, red pepper flakes

Directions:

1. Heat olive oil in skillet over medium-low heat for about 30 seconds and swirl around. Crack an egg directly into the pan and sprinkle with desired seasonings. Cook your egg between 1-3 minutes, depending on how runny you like your yolk. In the meantime, slice your avocado and layer onto your bread. Once the egg is done, pop it right onto your toast and call it a day!

Stuffed Avocado

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After 6 weeks, 7 plane rides, and countless trains, I  AM BACK HOME! It feels great to be back. I am trying to settle back into life here and I will be posting many pictures from the trip. But until then, here is a quick, simple and healthy snack I have been eating this week!

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IMG_7169Stuffed Avocado: serves 2 as a snack

Ingredients:

1 medium ripe avocado, cut lengthwise and pit removed

1 can tuna in water (3 oz), drained

2-3 tbs chopped white onion

1 celery stalk washed, cut lengthwise and chopped

6 green olives (without pits), cut into quarters

1 tbs olive oil + 2 tsp white vinegar

small pinch of salt and pepper

red pepper flakes (optional)

Directions:

1. Cut the avocado lengthwise, remove the pit and scoop out a little bit of the middle to make room for the filling, set aside.

2. In a medium sized bowl mix the onion, celery, olives, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly and then add the tuna and mix again.

3. Take a spoonful of the tuna and pat it down with your hand and then transfer it to the avocado. I fit two large spoonfuls in each half of the avocado and ate the remaining mixture with roasted seaweed. You can top the tuna with a few red pepper flakes if you like.

 

Let Yourself Dream

If your DREAMS were a place, where would YOU be standing, and WHAT would you be LOOKING at?

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First off, HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!!! My birthday was on September 10th, it was my first birthday in a foreign country and away from loved ones, but I had some birthday cards and gifts to keep me company.

I was faced with the question above when I was reading the book my sister got me, “What’s on your top 10 list?”. I shifted uncomfortably and turned the page to avoid being faced with this question. WHY? My reaction to this question and several other questions in this book have challenged me and made me feel uncomfortable and I am trying to figure out why.

Reality.

When I was younger, I dreamed. I dreamed of becoming an Olympic swimmer, I dreamed of opening up my own bakery, I dreamed of going to business school, I dreamed of traveling the world, I dreamed of going to culinary school, I dreamed of having a wonderful house with an amazing kitchen, I dreamed of blissfully happy days. I DREAMED. When I graduated college and became financially independent (for the most part), reality sunk in. When I was faced with the responsibility of paying rent, making my car payments on time and buying my own groceries, it became about survival, not my dreams. Eventually, I think I forgot HOW to dream. Sure I have goals related to my career and personal life, but I need to allow myself to dream again.

Last year I had this crazy dream of coming to a villa in Tuscany and learning more about Italian food culture and traditions. I didn’t know if it would happen, but I knew it was something I was so passionate about. Because I was so honest with myself about my desire, I was  inspired to take action and pursue my dream. Now I am in Italy. At a villa. Learning about food culture. So my birthday wisdom that I am trying to follow for the next year and many years to come is this:

LET YOURSELF DREAM

Figs & Pecorino

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After nearly a year of thinking about coming to Tuscany, I am finally here! I have only been at the villa/farmhouse for a few days and I am in love. The month of September is entirely devoted to learning more about cooking, Tuscan culinary traditions, getting inspired by new ingredients, and the Italian food culture. Yikes! I am in paradise.

Step 1: Eat what your boss suggests. 

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My boss and culinary instructor mentioned that she likes to eat boiled figs (picked fresh from her own tree) with pecorino cheese and toast in the morning for breakfast. The next morning she happened to make it and I couldn’t say no. Fresh figs from the tree are incredible. This is a different type of breakfast than I am used to eating, but it was so refreshingly different and delicious! The figs are so easy to make, you just bring fresh figs to a boil without anything added and let them simmer with a soft boil for about 20 minutes. Slice some cheese and toast bread. You’re done.