Breakfast of Champions

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The single most important meal of the whole day, so really put your heart into it. It’s worth that extra amount of effort in the long-run. Your mind and should will thank you for it and your health will follow suit.

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Ingredients:

* Quinoa
* Peaches (I mixed my peaches with a mixer)
* Berries of your choice (fresh or frozen)
* Coconut flakes
* Toasted soya flakes

What goes well with snow?

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PastedGraphic-10-1The first snow flakes have fallen onto the ground in Provence. Yes, I know, it snows, even here in the South of France. It doesn’t stay for long but long enough for one to get into a “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” kind of mood. I don’t know about you, but whenever I think of Christmas I think of baking and tangerines. Maybe it’s because the scent of cookies in the oven and peeled tangerines are childhood memories of Christmas. As this season is filled with unhealthy food, I thought it would be a good idea to skip the baking and make a healthy Tangerine-snack instead.

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PastedGraphic-8-2All you need is:

– Tangerines
– Chocolate of your choice ( I used 85% dark chocolate)
– Pistachios (you could use other nuts or nothing at all)

Peel the tangerines and separate the cloves. Heat the chocolate in a bain marie until melted. Peel the pistachios and chop them with a knife. Dip half a (or a whole) clove in the chocolate (while the chocolate is still hot – if the tangerines are cold the chocolate sticks better) and sprinkle the pistachios over. Let the cloves cool and then indulge yourself with a healthier version of Christmas candy!

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Vienna – The City of Music

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How very fitting for a musical person like me (the girl who could sing before she could talk) to receive such an extraordinary birthday gift as a trip to Vienna and front row seats to the Staatsoper to see Madama Butterfly. The strong but at the same time so tender voice of soprano Ana Maria Martinez filled the grand room where so many famous voices had sung before her, including the man on the conductor stand guiding her voice to reach the appropriate tones that evening, Plácido Domingo.

bildWhen I was younger I used to travel to Vienna quite often as it is only 30 mins from my birth town of Bratislava, Slovakia. Somehow I had forgotten how beautiful this city actually is, from well-kept historical buildings, the fairytale like Christmas market at the Rathausplatz, Schönbrunn palace, Mouth watering Austrian food in Grinzing and its different Heurigens to all the cosy cafés with the most dreamy cakes on display. No wonder Sigmund Freud was fed with inspiration of dreams here in his hometown…

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Paris je t’aime…finalement

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So it’s been a while since I wrote a post and what better way to restart my journey than to share my reflections on Paris with you!

To be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of Paris. I never saw the charm about this city that everyone else keeps mentioning. However, my recent trip opened my eyes to what this city has to offer and I actually came to like it…a lot!

Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I normally stay at hotels on the right bank and this time I was in the St Germain quarter which is located on the left bank. Coming from a hotel background I’m quite skilled when it comes to this business and having worked within the field of Revenue Management I can say that I understand pricing of hotel rooms quite well too. People usually complain about hotel rates in Stockholm as they find them way too expensive compared to other cities in Europe…well…I say…go to Paris and then you’ll be of a completely different opinion. The rates in Paris are beyond words, I stayed at a small 4-star boutique hotel called La Belle Juliette located in the St Germain area and they charge around 400 EUR per night for a Superior room (approx 15 sqm) excluding breakfast. Not to mention one of my absolut favourite 5-star hotels in Paris “Le Bristol” that online offered the humble rate of 1200 EUR per night for a normal room during these dates…excl. breakfast of course. Nonetheless, La Belle Juliette was a very cute and nice hotel, perfect choice for a couple travelling to Paris for a romantic weekend. The only thing I would complain about was the fact that it was located next to a construction site which they failed to mention anything about on their website when I made the reservation. So the mornings were quite noisy and God knows I enjoy my late mornings…So if you’re planning a trip to Paris and like the looks of this hotel, wait until Summer 2014 when the constructions will be over and done with.

I arrived in Paris early afternoon and decided to just walk around for a bit as the weather was absolutely magnificent! Late October and people were walking around in shorts and t-shirts. Strolling around in the Jardin du Luxembourg where everyone else seemed to have the same idea as me, just enjoying a perfect Autumn day in Paris, already gave me another view of this city. I enjoyed an early dinner in form of a salmon salad at a restaurant named Da Rosa located on the famous Rue du Seine in the heart of the wonderful St. Germain area. Exhausted from all the strolling around I hit the bed early that night.

Woken up quite early by the contraction workers drilling somewhere very close to my head, I went out to have a Parisian breakfast…coffee and croissant! While watching Australian Masterchef a while ago, I learned where the best croissants in Paris are to be found and that’s where I was headed. A busy place de la Republique and a few side streets later I arrived at croissant heaven…Du Pain et Des Idées. A place where they still handroll every single croissant each and every morning. So now picture the most perfect croissant in the world and now imagine my disappointment when they were sold out at 10:30 in the morning. But my disappointment didn’t last long as I was told another batch was on it’s way in about 30 mins. Was it worth waiting for? YES!

The rest of the day was spent walking around the whole city (and I literarily mean the whole city) trying to get rid of the 2000 calories I just ate for breakfast. When I realised that this wasn’t really doable as I was starting to get hungry again, I stilled my hunger with the only proven method I know works…shopping…and where else to go in Paris, but to visit the fashion imperium of Chanel on 31 Rue Cambon, where Coco Chanel used to keep her apartment. If you have about 2 hours to spare (that’s how long it takes when wanting to make a purchase at this incredibly busy store) when visiting Paris and feel like being robbed of your savings then this is a perfect pit stop on your way.

Somewhere on my afternoon walk along the Seine with my shopping bags, I forgot about my aching feet and consumed calories while breathing in the (polluted) Parisian air and started to realise the true charm of Paris…I do get what everyone is talking about and I am already looking forward to my next encounter with the city of lights and love.

Crème Caramel

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One of my all time favorite French desserts…a classic Crème Caramel

Serves 6-8 portions

Ingredients:

1 vanilla bean
2 l Milk
2 1/2 dl of Caster sugar (I replaced half with brown sugar)
1/2 tbls Lemon juice
2 tbls Water
4 Eggs

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Instructions:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 175° C. Cut the vanilla bean in half and put it in a sauce pan. Pour the milk over and let it simmer. Take it away from the heat and let it rest for a bit.

2. Pour half of the sugar into a dry pan. Add the lemon juice and the water. Let the mixture simmer while stirring until the mixture turns into a perfect caramel colour.

3. Pour the sugar into a 20 cm deep cake pan, turning it so that it sticks onto every piece of the surface.

4. Whisk the eggs and the rest of the sugar in a bowl for a couple of minutes. Add the hot milk. Strain the mixture through a sieve into the cake pan.

5. Place the cake pan in a medium baking dish; add enough boiling water to come half way up the side of the cake pan. Bake for about 40 minutes or until set. Remove cake pan from the baking dish; cool. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Serve with fresh strawberries or raspberries. I decided to make home-made sorbet to go with this (frozen raspberries mixed with a little bit of caster sugar)

A Birthday Party Reception…

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…in the most spectacular setting imaginable. A restored convent with its architectural elegance stripped down to its bare necessities. An old basin serving as the garden centerpiece with an old fountain to complete the ancient context and structure. Celebrating what could be one of the last Summer evenings, clinking our Champagne glasses and toasting to our dear friend turning a year wiser…everything in a timeless and effortless manner and style…complete and utter bliss!

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Confiture de Figues

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This year is truly the year of the fig. They are everywhere to be found and even wild ones in our own garden. What to do with all the figs that you can’t manage to feed your stomach with? Fig jam of course…Yum!

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Ingredients:

1 kg of figs
1/2 kg of sugar
3 tbsp of Cognac

Our wild figs were really sweet and we did not need to use that much sugar.

Instructions:

1. Wash the figs, break them open and combine them with the sugar in a bowl. Cover them and let them rest over night
2. Cook them in batches until a drop on an inclined plate doesn’t run. When almost cooked add the cognac to the mixture.
3. Put the mixture in sterile jars and seal them, sterilise them and when they have cooled put them in your pantry.

This is how we choose to preserve our Provencal Summer…in a jar full of deliciousness…which we open when we feel the need to taste a few drops of that season…either on a piece of home made sour dough bread with some local goat cheese or fois gras.

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Monte-Carlo, Monaco

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It’s not everyday that one is invited to a wedding and certainly not one of your best friends and on top of it in Monaco…but this weekend I was one of the lucky ones to hit the check mark on all three.

I had some time in between the festivities to walk around the city a bit and to explore these luxurious parts of the French Riviera as it was a few years since I was here the last time and 3 things really made an impression on me.

1. Cleanliness – Except for Singapore, I have never seen or been to such a clean city. You could almost lick the streets, that’s how clean they were. This is part of France and everyone knows how much the French smoke, and I did see a lot of smokers so I know for a fact that they exist in Monaco too, but as for the cigarette buds…nowhere to be found. On the first evening of the wedding bonanza we had a get-together at a bar in the harbour of Fontvielle and I would say that 90% of all the people there had at least one cigarette in their mouth at one point during the night. Out of these people at least 85% threw their cigarette on the ground but when passing by the same place during my morning walk, it was as if last night had never happened. The street looked brand new, almost as if they had put a new layer of concrete during the night after we had left.

2. Security – Police and security guards patrolling the streets 24/7 makes this city heaven to live in. I asked one of the guests at the wedding if it really is as safe as it seems and she confirmed it with a definitive yes adding that there are more policemen than inhabitants and that there are cameras everywhere watching your every move. She told me that once when walking home from a party she was stopped by the police because she was walking home alone in the middle of the night crying. They asked her what was wrong and if anything had happened to her. When she explained the situation of being something as silly as a quarrel with her best friend they asked if she wanted to talk about it. Okay…where else in the world would the police have the time to do that? One should be lucky if the police even comes to your rescue on time when dialling 911.

3. Public Transport – I have never been a fan of public transport as I suffer from claustrophobia a bit. Well that’s kind of a lie, I guess I could manage, but the truth is that I just don’t like it. After several attempts of trying to get a hold of a taxi in this town, we were advised by a lady, who gave us directions to the hotel, to take the bus. I was hesitating for more minutes than I would like to admit before I finally decided to take her advice. Firstly, you can buy tickets on the bus with the bus driver (that is not an option in Stockholm) so that already made me feel less adamant in my opinion in regards to public transport. Secondly, the bus driver was so service minded (actually all people in Monaco were…amazing thing considering it’s France were talking about) he actually took the time to explain what bus lines to take from where and told me when we had arrived at the bus stop where it was time for me to hop off…that almost made me want to cry. Finally, the thing that completely made me change my mind was the fact that Monaco gave public transport a whole new meaning. I consider myself a fashion victim and I like to dress nice, but I seriously felt like a bum sitting on that bus. That wasn’t public transport, that was Monaco fashion week on a bus. People were so well dressed it almost seemed like it was the party bus going to the wedding…except that it wasn’t…these were locals, going somewhere just like me, with just “slightly” more expensive clothes and accessories than me 😉

In regards to point number 3 I learned that in Monaco, arriving by helicopter from Nice airport, is also considered public transportation…now that’s a city that speaks my kind of language 😉

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Monaco in all its glory and fascination…but it’s good to be back home in the country side where none of the 3 points are present…but it’s home and that beats everything.

 

Potato & Porcini Gratin

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Ingredients (serves 4 ppl)

– 1 kg potatoes
– 30 g butter
– 200 g mixed mushrooms (preferably chanterelles and porcini)
– 100 g grated Parmesan
– 1 Rosemary sprig
– salt and pepper

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IMG_8036Instructions:

1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius

2. Slice the potatoes using a mandolin

3. Butter an oven proof dish

4. Clean the mushrooms, cut them into pieces and panfry them in a dry pan and get rid of any excess liquid. Then add a little of the butter and season with salt and pepper.

5. Cover the bottom of the dish with a layer of the sliced potatoes, put half of the mushrooms and top that off with half of the amount of cheese. Repeat one more time.

6. Put one last layer of potatoes on top, season with salt, pepper and rosemary and place the remaining amount of the butter on top.

7. Put the gratin in the oven and lower the temperature to 175 degrees Celsius and bake for 45 mins.

Goes perfectly with roasted Chicken/Lamb or with a simple green salad as a vegetarian alternative.

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