Friday, September 18, 2009

New Juice

I've gotten a few requests for a new juice recipe so here is one I put together this morning.  It is adapted from the Blue Grape recipe in Raw Food Real World.  The original recipe calls for blue/green algae, grapefruit juice, and agave. Mine went like this:

In a blender add:
1 cup of fresh squeezed grapefruit juice (you can buy this at Whole Foods or squeeze yourself)
~ 1/2 cup of frozen grapes
2 droppers full of Marine Phyto Plankton (Use any powder/liquid algae supplement here)

Blend and pour. It is delicious.  I enjoyed sipping this while making Maple Cranberry Granola (Raw Food Real World) and Fig Bars (aka Fig Newtons) from Living Raw Food.  

These two raw food un-cook books are by far my favorite and most used in my growing collection.  New books are what keep me inspired. Sarma Melngailis, is an entertaining writer and the recipes in both of these books range from simple fare to elaborate creations.  I highly recommend both for anyone who wants to get creative, get inspired, and include more delicious, whole, raw foods in their culinary adventures.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Paris: Part Trois

On our final day, Monday, we went to Notre Dame's Cathedral.  The architecture was beautiful and the grandness of the interior was more than I imagined.  Evan seemed thoroughly bored with that exploration.  As he said, "I've seen dozens of European churches and they are all basically the same."  It sort of sapped my enthusiasm, but to be fair he hadn't had his coffee yet and is generally much perkier once that happens.  We contemplated doing the hike up the stairs to the bell tower, but our guide book said it was a "claustrophobe's worst nightmare."  When we saw the line leading into the narrow staircase I knew that would give me a panic attack so we passed. 

Next on the "Paris by Keith" travel suggestions we walked over to Isle St. Louis to browse the shops.  The narrow streets and little shops were beyond quaint.  We conveniently came upon a little cheese shop next to a little bread shop and that pretty much sounded like lunch to us.  The very nice cheese shop owner let us taste a delicious cow's milk swiss (we think, swiss) and we bought a small wedge of that a wedge of very stinky brie.  Next we stopped at the bakery and bought some very dark and chewy loaves, as well as a slice of broccoli quiche and the token croissant.  We finished our little walk on the island, found some very small cups of coffee, and then set about having a  picnic on the river.  Notre Dame is spectacular from every angle and we had a great view of the cathredral while enjoying our bread and cheese lunch.  Evan was right, the bread in Europe is the best I've ever had.  Chewy, crusty on the outside and full of flavor.  It paired perfectly with the cheeses, but the brie was a bit too pungent for me. Evan liked that one though.  

Next on Keith's tour suggestions were to get pastries from one very particular pastry shop called Pierre Herme.  We took two trains to get there and when we did, oh boy!  Keith doesn't kid around about pastries. This was a pretty upscale shop and everything looked so decadent. We were so full from our lunch that we ordered a lemon tart and a flaky, creamy caramel filled delight, the name of which I cannot recall, and we took them with us.  

Evan had a call for work to do, so we went back to the hotel and I took a much needed 20 minute nap.  Next we were off to the area called Montmarte to the Basilica de Sacre Coeur.  We wandered in the wrong direction for 20 minutes before we finally figured out where to go.  This area was very touristy and full of junk shops, artists, and tourists.  The Basilica overlooks the entire city as it sits up on a hill top.  First we looked around inside. Now, I am the sort of person that rebels against rules that I deem arbitrary and this is the only place we entered where pictures were not allowed.  So of course, in a little snit of rebellion, I shut off the flash and took a few because the stain glass was really something to be seen.  Thank goodness for tourists who don't follow rules or the one little man in charge of yelling at said tourists wouldn't have a job. He rushed over and started scolding me in French, I think, but it sounded more like Spanish.  I agreed to put away the camera and within seconds he was rushing off to yell at someone else.  He must have really been sent into a tizzy when someone's cell phone started going off obnoxiously.  I admit breaking rules because I think they are dumb is the last little bit of teenage angst still left in me.... But I have the contraband photos... mwah ha ha...

Next we explored the crypt below the church where I learned from Evan that there are plaques on the floor that one should not step on. Whoops...I didn't even see them.   It was dark and a wee bit eerie but nothing too impressive.  Finally we paid the small fee to climb the tiny spiral staircases up to the top of the basilica.  I managed to get through it with only a few small panic attacks when going up what seemed to be a never-ending amount of stairs. 288 to be exact.   It was disappointing to see all the graffiti up there as the entire city has relatively little but this tourist trap area was completely scarred.

Dinner was next and both of us were getting pretty desperate for fresh vegetables, a salad of any kind. One can only live on bread and cheese for so long and this whole trip was lacking in fresh, live foods and I was really starting to crave them.  Our guide book led us to a little cafe in neighborhood known for their big salads.  So with a glass of wine and a beer for Evan we enjoyed our vegetarian salads, which were covered in potatoes fried in garlic.  That was an interesting twist, but yummy nevertheless.  

I'm sad to say that by the time we got back to the hotel, the last thing we wanted to do was head out again to see Paris at night.  Eight hours of walking and sightseeing really wears me out. Paris at night is a treat that will have to be saved for another trip. Our last evening in Paris was spent relishing the unbelievable pastry we picked up earlier that day. I've never tasted anything like it.  There was moaning involved. As Keith said later, their pastry is sort of a spiritual experience.  Amen to that!  Thanks for telling us about this place Keith. 

We had big plans to get up early on Tuesday to go see Napoleon's tomb and the catacombs. However, parents on vacation need to balance their need to sleep uninterrupted with sightseeing and suffice it to say we slept until 10 am and decided to skip Napoleon's tomb.

The catacombs were the farthest away, but ever since hearing about them in junior high school, I've always been intrigued by the concept.  So off we went. When we arrived we decided to stop at a cafe to get the morning coffee and get our bearings.  It turns out we were kitty-cornered from the entrance to the catacombs as evidenced by the long-line.  Without looking at the menu, we ordered 2 coffees. I stuck to decaf all weekend and I am happy to say that I was served actual decaf because I have not suffered a headache since being home and coffee-less. This is more than I can say for the rare occasion I order a decaf in the U.S. and usually get regular and have to deal with migraines for a few days.  The bill came and it was  8.30 euro!  That is about $12 for 2 cups of coffee. RIDICULOUS!  I admit I am not very conscious of money spending with foreign currency as it all feels like monopoly money to me, but this hit home. I couldn't believe it...and it wasn't even the best cups of coffee for the whole trip either.

After the expensive coffee we waited about 45 minutes in line to the catacombs.  This was our first rainy morning in Paris so I was forced to wear my vibrams as all my other shoes were sandles or flip flops.  I was dreading that a rat was going to run over my feet while down there. Once in we decended down almost 100 steps and walked through a maze of caves and corridors. This was the creepiest part because you never knew when you might come face to skull with some departed soul.  I had to work hard to ignore the upwelling of claustrophobic panic I could feel boiling just under the surface of my being, knowing there was no quick exit.  Finally we came upon a sign that read, "STOP: You are now entering the Empire of the Dead." In French, of course..

And then we entered the series of caves with walls of artfully and neatly arranged femurs, tibias and skulls. It occurred to us that someone's job was to build walls out of human remains. How macabre.  There did seem to be some mortar used to secure the elaborate displays. Room after room after room....all the anticipation of how creepy it would be was quickly desensitized and by the third or fourth room I was actually bored and hoping for the exit.  But overall it was an interesting, if not unusual, ending to a romantic weekend. And, there were no rats. 

After this we gathered our things from the hotel and set off for the airport for an uneventful flight home. Evan was off to Dusseldorf, Germany for business.

Needless to say, I loved Paris.   I could see us living there for a time, as there is so much more to explore and what a lovely home base Paris would be for other adventures in Europe.  Plus, I hope to expose Ian to different cultures of the world while he is young and Paris is so rich - so much to see, contemplate and enjoy.  I plan to learn the language more fluently and hope to continue on with our lessons at home.  Our fifth anniversary went by without much acknowledgement in May, so this trip really was like a second honeymoon.  Thank you for the beautiful time in Paris my love!  I look forward to more exciting adventures with you.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Paris: Part Deux

We slept in on Sunday morning and finally made it out of the hotel around 10 am.  The weather for the first three days of our trip couldn't have been better, bright blue skies, mid 70s and brilliant sunshine.  We wandered over to the metro and purchased tickets for two days from the very friendly and helpful man behind the counter.  It should be noted here, that when we were deciphering the map the day before a nice person, who was not employed by the public transportation authority,  rushed over and offered to help us figure out where we were going and happily switched to English when he realized our French was limited.  So, a word to all the people I have heard say they have no interest visiting France because they heard the French are rude or snotty. From our very limited experience, I would say this stereotype is utter garbage.  In fact, the only rude behavior I experienced or witnessed the entire trip was from Americans, in particular the very short tempered Boston flight attendants who treated the French passengers very rudely.  There is no way a city known as being for lovers could get that reputation with an undercurrent of rudeness and disrespect.  Love abounds there and everyone we encountered was friendly. In fact, the French culture and social etiquette is exceedingly polite with tourists and with each other.  Over the course of this trip I reflected on this stereotype and came to the conclusion that the tourists are likely the ones who are very rude and this negative attitude is simply mirrored back at them. 

In any case, after the very nice encounter with the subway ticket man, I remarked to Evan how different it is if you try to ask someone behind the counter at a NYC subway a question.  I think I'd feel lucky if I got more than a grunt and an annoyed sneer.  The other socio-political observation I made was the refreshing absence of obvious social classes.  I imagine that when the people run the government, everyone is taken care of, and family and leisure time is honored, there isn't much left to be bitter and angry about. When the subway employee is afforded the same basic right to health and happiness as a doctor, I imagine it helps someone's feeling of self worth. When people are valued and feel good about themselves, then they bring their best self to their role in the world and I think that would benefit everyone in the end. 

We took the train down and meandered through Tuilerie Gardens, while Evan enjoyed his morning coffee from a street stand, we sat around the fountains and took it all in. Lots of people were doing much the same as we were, families were strolling, pairs were sitting chatting. The atmosphere was relaxed and peaceful.  The bright blue of the sky and the charming apartments with the wrought iron balconies made me want to break out into a chorus of "Who will buy this wonderful feeling?" as the scene reminded me so much of that scene in Oliver. It was one of those periods of pure, ecstatic bliss and I savored every second of it. 

From there we walked around outside the Louvre before heading over to the Musee d' Orsay, as recommended by our friend Keith The World Traveler.  This museum was a much more manageable size for spending just a few hours and he mentioned that we would probably recognize more in this museum.  We got a few photos inside while studying the sculptures and paintings in the main hall before our camera battery ran out.  There were a few great pieces and, of course, I absolutely loved all the paintings that prominently featured beautiful breastfeeding mothers.  However, the most provocative piece in the whole museum, was without a doubt Gustave Courbet's L'Origine du monde, The Origin of the World.  In person, this was absolutely stunning and very tasteful.  Though I think the title really added to its integrity. If I were a midwife, this would so be hanging in my office. 

If the human body were so tastefully and artfully apparent in our every day life here in the USA I think we'd be a lot better off. Gone would be the discussions of whether mothers should be able to breastfeed in public.  Something else I noticed was the classic style of Parisians. There was no butt-cheeks and thongs hanging out of low cut jeans, there is no draping saggy pants showing your underwear, or anything  tightfitting and/or sleazy. The style of dress there is classy, often very sexy, but very tasteful.  I think this is because sex in the French culture is very artistic, respectful, and classy and that translates to a respect for human sexuality, sensuality, and romance.  Sex in the US culture is anything but cultured. It goes to either extreme here, both hidden and considered wrong and something to be ashamed of leaving people to rebel against that and sensationalize it in a cheap way devoid of sensuality and romance.  The French neither hide it nor exploit it. I loved that.  

We left the museum about 4:30 and decided to head back and eat at one of the charming sidewalk cafe's on the way back to the hotel.  We found one and enjoyed a lovely slow-paced meal while people watching.  We both got the warm goat cheese salad, which came already dressed. The goat cheese was not directly on the salad, but melted onto crostini which were placed on the salad. It was divine.  For the second course, Evan chose the trio of pastas, all of which were obviously made fresh and not from dried pasta and each dressed with different, very flavorful sauces.  As for me, for my whole adult life since my interest in the culinary world took a sharp turn into being a complete foodie, I had wanted to try beef carpaccio. This is very hard to find in any restaurant in the U.S., I personally have never seen it. But here it was, so I had to try it.  It was delicious, but that was much more a tribute to the lemon, capers, olive oil, garlic and artichoke hearts than it was to the raw beef.   It was good, and now I can cross that off my list of things I want to try in my life.   For dessert, Evan chose the caramel flan which was soupy and disappointing. I chose the chocolate mousse....and I am not sure you can really go wrong with that choice. I certainly didn't.  

Evan was starting to get a sore throat from all his travels so again, we were asleep by 9 pm. (to be continued....)

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

This American Girl in Paris (Part 1)

It took just over 34 years to finally travel abroad. I've been to certain islands in the caribbean and to Canada, but I don't really count that. For as long as I can remember I have wanted to go to Europe and as it turns out, Paris was my first taste what turned out to be a delicious experience, literally and figuratively. 

I left on Friday night. Evan was at the same airport, but a different terminal as he was to fly Air France and I was on American.  We both ended up leaving late. I was supposed to take off at 6:30, but because someone couldn't find and deliver a log book for the pilot to sign, we all sat on the tarmac until 9 pm.  The flight was uneventful and I even managed to doze for a few hours, which helped my nerves as I was pretty apprehensive about flying over the ocean for the first time. 

Evan met me at my gate. Since he had arrived two hours prior he had time to get metro maps and decide how we were going to get to our hotel. This is one of the innumerable reasons I am so grateful to have a capable partner in my life.   He thinks of everything I don't and vice versa.

Our hotel and room were tiny but adorable and a convenient stone's throw away from the metro.  After a quick shower and change we set off to explore, determined to stay up until bed time in spite of the fact that I'd only slept about 6 hours of the last 48.  

Our hotel was right next to the Arc de Triomphe .  We walked down toward the Seine River and happened upon our first and, as it turned out, only green market experience.  If I had know this was the last I was going to see of beautiful fresh fruits, I would have stockpiled.  It was expansive, colorful and and overflowing with fresh ripe goodness of every size and color.  It was a feast to the eyes. I only wish I had my good camera, or even thought to take out our little one, to capture the vibrant colors and hustle and bustle of this large green market.  As it was, we had just gotten going and I wasn't about to get saddled down with bags of produce.  And, I was in Paris!  Eating for optimal nutrition was off my priority list for the next few days. 

Next we saw the Eiffel Tower which was a lot bigger than I had imagined.  We walked underneath, saw the winding long line, and decided that going up it was not important to us.  By this time we were famished and stopped for lunch at a little cafeteria style restaurant on a boat. I had an expectation that everything that crossed my palate on this trip was going to be an explosion of flavor that would drown away in mmm and ahhhh type yummy noises, however this place didn't look too promising. I was wrong.  It was simple, yes.  I asked for quiche, but the server heard "fish" and so I was served a piece of salmon.  The salmon melted on my tongue like butter....probably because it was cooked in about a pound of it, but it was good.  Simple and satisfying too.  Evan got a lasagna that was equally good as I think the pasta was fresh and the cheese was well, cheesy, and that makes anything good. 

We strolled on in search of Rodin's Garden.  I loved taking in the beautiful tree lined sidewalks, breathtakingly beautiful buildings, and what seemed like sculptures and fountains on every block.  From the iron balconies overflowing with colorful flowers to the 10 piece orchestra in the subway, Paris seems to have charm oozing out the cracks in the sidewalk.  It was intoxicating. 

Rodin's Garden was a perfectly manicured garden around a museum that used to be a hotel.  I was familiar with "The Thinker" and "The Kiss", which is an achingly romantic piece, a theme that comes through in many of his sculptures.  However, I was most moved by one I'd never seen before called "The Hand of God" which was a large hand emerging from the rough stone and within it were the intertwined forms of Adam 
and Eve.  There is a sensuousness to his work.  The bodies give a feeling a fluidity and movement as they intertwine with one another. I love when art can invoke an emotion.  When I studied "The Kiss" I could faintly feel the butterflies in my stomach.  At this point, I was starting to see why Paris is well known as one of the most romantic cities in the world, love and beauty abound in every eyeful. 

Evan was more a fan of the Gates of Hell, which again included a sea of tangled, sensuous bodies as a tribute to Dante's Inferno.  Without a doubt it is a grand masterpiece, but I preferred the smaller works.  

At this point we had reached the 4 pm "witching hour" that Evan thinks is the hardest part of jet lag.  We revitalized with a coffee for him and an ice cream (tiramisu and chocolate) for me.  The ice cream was rich and velvety, like nothing I'd ever had before.  The flavors were really bold. This was the first of several times I wondered why everything tasted better in Paris....why is that?!?

After our snack we managed to meander home, pick up a couple of baguette sandwiches on the way and were out cold by 8 pm.  (to be continued...)