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Baked falafels with homemade pita bread

A 10-minute job and super healthy That meals can be associative experiences that stand as pillars along our life’s journey has long been established. I vividly remember the very first time I tried falafels. I was vacationing in Toronto, Canada and for some strange reason (because I hate shopping for anything but books, wine, and food), it was in the food court of the huge mall in the heart of Toronto. Falafels. Folded into a pita, topped with tzatziki and tabbouleh. Y.U.M.M.Y. I couldn’t believe what I was tasting.., the flavors had a party on my palate. That I had to be in my twenties to get this delicious meal on my adventurous life path was actually a mystery. As a good source of fiber and protein, falafels support healthy blood sugar levels. But while they are healthy, deep-frying (as they are usually prepared) turns them into a fat and …

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Gumbo with Mogettes de Vendée (v)

Cajun food, starring the humble Vendée mogette As a long-time expat and having lived many places, multi-cultural meals are a normal part of what I cook. Secretly I think it’s one of the reasons my husband is fond of me. 😉 We enjoy an international kitchen! It’s inspiring to prepare something that you know will evoke a memory, or certain flavors on the palete, that represents somewhere you’ve been on holiday or have lived for a while. In fact. Gumbo is a perfect example of migration and the merging of cultures, combined with what is available locally, to create something entirely different and exciting. According to scholars, the dish originates in the 18th century and is first described in the early 19th (1802). The word likely knows its origin in Africa and refers to the okra vegetable which acts as a thickening agent. Gumbo is a type of stew that …

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Springtime coral lentil soup (v)

Healthy and refreshing Cool mornings and warm afternoons can be a bit of a puzzle when it comes to figuring out what to eat. It’s too warm for hearty winter fare yet, too cold for summer food. If you’re the go-to cook at your house, you know the happy medium can be frustrating to achieve. Well, here’s a wonderful little recipe to the rescue: this coral (or red) lentil soup will warm your bones and give you a taste of summer all in one healthy bowl-full. The secret ingredient? Lemon! Ingredients and preparation – springtime coral lentil soup (vegetarian) 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil 1 large onion, finely chopped 2 celery stalks with leaves, finely chopped 1 large carrot, chopped small 1/3 cup of finely chopped bell pepper (paprika) – trio (red, green, yellow) 3 garlic cloves, minced 2 tsp. ground coriander 1 tsp. ground cumin 1/2 tsp. sweet …

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Green lentil & tabbouleh salad with feta and endive (v)

Packed with nutrients Learning about lentils was quite eye-opening. Of all the legumes I love, I’ve probably cooked with lentils the least. No idea why, but it’s going to change. Experimenting with different recipes to bookend our article about green lentil agriculture in the Vendée, I fell in love with this (vegetarian/ vegan) salad. I knew bulgur loves lemon, and that lentils love lemon. Put the three ingredients together, and it’s like a new trinity. The perfect combo that not only tastes fresh and delicious, but is so full of nutrition that even Popeye might completely burst out of his clothes. Enjoy it for lunch with fresh pita, or with some lean chicken or fish, or as I did accompanied by an endive salad and you’ll know you’ve done something good for your body. Hope you enjoy this as much as I do! Ingredients and preparation – Tabbouleh & green lentil …

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Scampi Diabolique (devil prawns)

FROM BAR FOOD, TO FANCY APPETIZER, TO MAIN COURSE Prawns or scampi diabolique is an absolute staple in any restaurant or pub where I come from. In a restaurant it might be offered as an appetizer or a main course; and in a pub setting it’s the perfect dish to accompany a bottle of wine, friendly conversation… a boozy night on the town. I like the latter purpose of devil shrimp, served with crusty baguette to dip into the spicy sauce. You’ll find many ways to prepare this lovely dish and in time I’m sure you’ll choose one and make it your own. In my kitchen, I make the “short” version with help from the supermarket. I use canned lobster bisque as a base for my sauce. It’s a personal favorite for me, something that is both humble and fancy. For guests I may serve it with rice or fresh …

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Three cultures. one meal: Shepherd’s Pie à la Flamande

Two cultures, one meal… it’s fusion to make the angels sing! I love jamming two cultures together, combining flavors and textures of meals that I love, that I know for sure my husband will love, AND that I can easily turn into a vegetarian meal without compromising anything. Shepherd’s pie – or parmentier – is such a dish. The city I was born – Ghent in Belgium – was historically a very important port in northern Europe, one where exotic spices were part of the trade. Add in the refined abbey brews and a need for cheaper cuts of meat among the working class and it should be no surprise these ingredients found their way into a stew that has kept its reputation as a delicacy throughout the centuries. Since the first published recordings in the 1800’s, the recipe has not changed indeed, it probably hasn’t since centuries before that. …

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Apéro honey-mustard dipping sauce

A versatile sauce for many dishes and we’ve included three! Honey mustard sauce is a very tasty addition to your apéro table. It’s sweet and tangy, it’s sweet and a little bit spicy, and it’s super sweet because it takes no more than five minutes to make and keeps for up to a week. The longer it stores in the fridge, the stronger the flavor. So, if it’s not spicy tasting right when you make it, the next day you’ll catch that hint of cayenne at the back of the throat. It can be served to accompany an array of finger foods. It can be more fatty or more healthy. It can be used for a plethora of things in the kitchen, such as: marinade for barbecue, deviled eggs, as a glaze for a pork roast or ham, as a sauce on a hamburger, glaze for seared ahi tuna, on …

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Apéro Mini Vol-au-Vent

For apéritif we handle them quickly! At our house we are not planning to conjure up a big party menu this Christmas and New Year’s Eve. We don’t have any guests and actually “apéro dining” is something we do every Friday evening anyway; just a lot of snacks we like with a cocktail or a bottle of Cava and a nice movie. For us it’s a cozy, relaxing way to end the week. When I prepare vol-au-vent as a meal, it involves a lot of work and love. “In grandmother’s way” you know… I don’t do that for apéro-dining. First, not much filling is needed for the mini-pastries, and second it shouldn’t take so much of my time. These mini vol-au-vents are tasty AND quick. Ingredients and preparation – mini-vol-au-vent For 24 – 30 mini-pastries 2 chicken breasts cut into small pieces 1/2 lemon – juiced 50g/50g butter and plain …

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Lettuce wraps with beets, endive, and apple (v)

So crispy fresh and delicious It’s a salad, yes. How does a salad become finger food? Simple, by cutting everything extra fine and serving it as a wrap. A lettuce wrap – or in this case I also used endive leaf ‘boats’ – that is at once refreshing, crispy, slightly tart and goes well with any of our other apéro suggestions. It’s just wonderful and I can’t imagine it wouldn’t be equally awesome as a stand alone salad throughout the summer season, or as part of a picnic. I’ll be honest, people who don’t like vegetables might not like this. But that’s okay… more for those who do like this kind of thing! Ingredients and preparation – Lettuce wraps with beets, endive, and apple – Vegetarian Makes about 10 wraps plus some extra (see cup) 1 fresh butterhead lettuce (laitue) 1 sweet apple peeled (preferably Pink-Lady) 1 stalk endive cut …

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Apéro fried ravioli and marinara sauce dip (v)

Quick and easy. AND tasty! Fried ravioli is kind of a finger food staple for as long as I can remember. It’s cheap to make, quick and is sure to please everybody around the apéro table. What’s more, measurements are not really necessary, because you can’t go wrong. We use sunflower (tournesol) frying oil, but you can use whatever you’re used to, use a deep fryer or a pan like we d0. You can also use any fresh ravioli you like, stuffed with cheese or other things. Ingredients and preparation – fried ravioli with marinara sauce (vegetarian) 1  or more bags of fresh ravioli from the supermarket breadcrumbs eggs marina sauce – make your own or buy at supermarket as you wish spices: paprika powder, dried parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper – no set measurements, use them liberally sunflower or other frying oil and paper towel for …

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Préfou de Vendée – garlic bread (v)

Making Préfou from scratch surprised me! Until this moment we had only ever bought the pale préfou at the supermarket… well… never again! This homemade garlic bread, a Vendéen delicacy although we’re relatively sure that the term delicacy in relation to loads of garlic is a total oxymoron, is scrumptious. Until now we had only been familiar with the Italian garlic bread which we now realise is like the “milquetoast” version of REAL garlic bread. (Milquetoast is a word that has been around since 1925 and means ‘meek’). So, what is préfou and where does it live in Vendée history? In the countryside near Fontenay-le-Comte, long before we had the modern convenience of thermostats to tell us when the oven was hot enough to bake, Vendéen bakers had the clever idea to throw a piece of bread into the oven to check the temperature. Once the bread was pale but …

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Apéro-time Empanadas

The appetizer that works every time! Empanadas are the Central -and South American version of pasties, crescent-shaped, savory pastries filled with a variety of ingredients. They are usually fried, but we prefer baking them to golden perfection. They are quite versatile and can be filled with meat or even made in a delicious Caribbean-style vegetarian version simply by replacing the meat with boiled and shredded  (sweet)potato and carrots. Even better… you can make them ahead of time and freeze, so you always have something to serve unexpected guests that is (almost completely) homemade and thaws/ reheats/ bakes quickly. When we have a party or for any fancy occasion like Christmas -or New Year’s eve, these beef-olive-raisin empanadas are on the menu as a favorite finger food. Hope you enjoy! Ingredients and preparation – Appetizer Empanadas For about 40 appetizers 175 gr lean minced beef – for this recipe, minced turkey …

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Chickpeas and Kale (v)

In the Kale-for-Winter post I had already described how I typically stock up on this healthy treat before winter by blanching in broth and freezing for soups and stews. This vegetarian (or vegan with just a small change) recipe is an example where I use one of my ‘treasure packages’. I call them that because I love this ‘green gold’ that much. Kale is a superfood with many health benefits. Like Popeye and his spinach, I feel stronger when I consume it. This is where my work before winter pays off because this recipe is so tasty and easy to make, and all I have to do to finish it is to drop one of my kale-frozen-in-broth packages into the pot at the very end. If you really don’t like kale, another potent green vegetable will work too, including spinach. This is not a chickpea stew, nor is it a …

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American-style Meatloaf

Meatloaf or meatbread can be found in many cultures around the world! Meatloaf is typically something we like to eat in fall and winter as it’s so delicious with mashed potatoes and other winter veg. But it’s just as good in the summer too, as a sandwich on toast with spicy mustard and mayo, perhaps a pickle to accompany it, and with an ice cold beer to accompany it. The concept of turning a large amount of minced meat (ground meat) into a large loaf to feed a family, is not new. From Austria to Vietnam and everywhere in between, many countries around the world have some version of meatloaf in their cuisine. Pinpointing the origin is not easy, but we can be quite sure that the tradition for meatloaf is rooted in frugality. To feed a large number of people with just pennies to spend. When I was a …

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Baked salmon roll with endive and leeks

Leeks and endive are two veggies that we love at our house. Growing up, they were regularly served in one way or another and even as a child, I loved it all. Both leeks and endive are vegetables are incredibly versatile. If I could have had one Euro for every time that a cashier in the U.S. asked me these two strange vegetables they were ringing up for me and how to cook them, I would sit behind this keyboard with heavy pockets. How could I possible answer that question anyway. The meals you can make with them certainly do not begin or end with leek soup or endive au gratin. THIS recipe surprised even me. It is incredibly delicious. Silky… lemony… With the Holiday Season coming, this salmon roll with endive and leeks baked in a delicate sauce can be the star on your festive table. A little background …

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Pumpkin Tart (v)

Pumpkin pie … Just one of the things to look forward to each year for Thanksgiving for 24 years of my life! Along with sweet potato pie and my sister-in-law’s wonderful squash casserole. Yummy! But guess what. My husband HATES any of these things. It’s decidedly un-American. So… this year I have devised my very own recipe for a pumpkin pie. It’s more tart than pie, so I’m calling it a pumpkin tart. Listen. You don’t have to try it. But I challenge you to. The test-kitchen for this recipe happened to be at my mother’s house. My mother who also doesn’t like pumpkin pie. I’ll tell you what was left of this 4-person pie after it came out of the oven… 1 wedge. One. Which is how I know it’s as delicious to eat hot or cold. I can’t wait to serve it my pumpkin tart to my husband, …

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Judy’s Chicken tagine with apricots and almonds

Introduction Hello everybody! I was so very happy that Judy Lipton, our Facebook group member who is dying to visit the Vendée on her next trip to France, whom I am humbled to call my friend and… who is a chef, volunteered one of her amazing recipes for our Recipe Corner! I can honestly say that I can’t wait to see Judy again (she owns a home elsewhere in France) but until then, I know that when I try this recipe it will feel a little bit like putting my feet under her table. It will feel like a warm hug. I can’t wait. Let’s head to Judy’s kitchen in Tucson, Arizona, for this mouthwatering Middle Eastern inspired recipe! Ingredients and preparation Chicken Tagine with apricots and almonds For 4- 6 people 4 oz dried apricots (125 g) 1 chicken, cut into 8 pieces, or just thighs 1 tsp ground ginger …

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Prepping kale for winter

Kale is one of my favorite vegetables. When I moved here from the United States, I was sad to discover that it’s not such a prevalent thing here. In Belgium, butchers use it to decorate their displays. Or they may sel it in pre-packed bags as salad – which is fine if it weren’t chopped to bits with toughest of the stems left in. In the UK, from what someone told me, it’s considered livestock feed. Lucky cows! In the Netherlands you can get it everywhere, being that one of the national dishes is Boerenkool Stamppot, a cabbage hodgepodge of potatoes cooked and mashed with kale. In France, it’s a different story again. Apparently I wasn’t the only person shocked by the sparsity of it in France… New Yorker Kristen Breddard, who’d moved to Paris years before, started a website called The Kale Project – essentially a mapping and information …

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Broccoli Pie with Vendéen Jambon Blanc

I fell in love with this incredibly tasty broccoli pie from the very beginning but adding the beautiful Vendée (white) ham makes it extra special. It’s a lovely meal on it’s own, served with a salad in summer or with buttery mashed potatoes in fall/winter. With store-bought dough so inexpensive and readily available, it’s also super easy but of course you can make your own. If you’re intimidated making the roux, don’t worry. If you follow the recipe to the letter, you can’t go wrong. And if you wish to make it vegetarian, simply leave the ham and switch chicken broth with veg broth. Ingredients and preparation Broccoli Pie with Vendéen Jambon Blanc For up to 4 people Pâte brisée – 1 pie crust (or 2 because you can make it prettier by creating a lattice to cover the pie with) 750g of broccoli florets cooked for 3 minutes in …

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Renée’s Chicken Enchilada Soup

Introduction Hello everybody! The following recipe was submitted to inthevendee.com by Renee Schouten-Janssen and we can’t wait to try it! In starting this recipe corner and writing down my recipes the most difficult task is to figure out “how much of that do I use?” …. I love that Renée is just such a cook too! Truth is, for recipes such as this it’s okay to have a starting point and adjust to your taste as you go along. Let’s head to Renée’s kitchen for her delicious soup! Ingredients and preparation – Enchilada Soep met Kip For 4- 6 people Chicken thighs 2 cans of peeled tomatoes 1 or 2 chopped onions Chopped garlic 2 TBSP flour Chili flakes Cumin powder Coriander powder Can of corn Red kidney beans and/ or black beans canned 3 liters chicken stock Method Prep Remove the skin from the chicken thighs. Fry the chicken …

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Carnitas

Tender deliciousness the whole family will love! I’m not sure in how deeply Europeans are familiar with Mexican food. What I mean is, homecooked, not from a pre-packaged, processed starter-kit you can find at the grocery store. Having spent a lot of time in Mexico, and having had a lot of Mexican immigrants touch my life at one point or another, and having eaten anywhere from Mexican ‘hole in the wall’ takeaways, to Mexican restaurants where live-Mariachi bands perform Johnny Cash at your table, to Mexican cuisine restaurants with a star chef at the helm… both my husband and I are quite unanimous that Mexican food is the best food in the world. It’s possibly also the most time-consuming to make from scratch. Since living in France and learning to make it myself, I’ve also come to the conclusion that appreciating the food and loving the people you’re cooking for …

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Butternut pumpkin soup

The sweetness of autumn I do love autumn, don’t you? When the leaves on the trees have turned their darkest green and there is a little sensation of coolness on the morning breeze and the air smells just a little more earthy you know it’s time. Time to run a hand over a woolen jumper, time for boots, time for a cozy fire. Time for different pops of color for different flavors in the kitchen. Time to fall in love with a new season! Let’s head to my kitchen for the king of color … Butternut Pumpkin or Butternut Squash soup! Ingredients and preparation – Butternut Pumpkin Soup For 4- 8 people (I cook leftovers or prep a next batch for the freezer) 1 large butternut – cubed (set half aside) 1 large onions – roughly chopped (frozen also works) 3 cloves of garlic (or as you wish) – minced …

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Carbonara-Alfredo fusion… with a French twist!

Of legend, World War II & Hollywood In order to tell you how I came up with this dish, I have a confession to make. I can count the number of times I’ve eaten ‘Fettuccini Alfredo’ (a staple on many Italian-American restaurant menus) on one hand, and truly enjoyed it maybe twice. The same is true for Carbonara. The best Carbonara I’ve ever had was in Nantes, on a balmy Friday night outside on a terrace, and the only reason I know it was the best is because that night I had a taste from my husband’s plate. He loves Carbonara. I seldom order it. I’ve never seen him order Fettucini Alfredo. But we do love cream sauces. So, when he asked me one day to make Carbonara, I came up with this recipe quite on a whim. I won’t lie. It is scrumptious. One might say sinful. Writing up …

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Vegetarian Butternut Pie – an autumn delight!

Last year in fall or winter, Sky News announced the upcoming UK budget revelation with an infomercial where the main character was a pie… a wintry pie that looked delicious and easy enough to try to make. The infomercial showed the pie being made from scratch, and even without an actual recipe, I thought well, come on, you can figure this out. So, here it is, probably not exact and really it doesn’t matter. Because this pie is delicious, and it’s vegetarian. That makes it pretty much perfect for me. The question was, would my husband -the carnivore- like it too? Ingredients – Vegetarian Butternut Pie 1 butternut squash peeled and sliced into 1 cm portions or in fingers 1 red paprika (bell pepper), washed, seeds removed, cut into chunks 1 medium sized carrot peeled, then washed, and shopped into strips 1 courgette, peeled and shopped into strips Optional: spinach, …