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La Petite Maison Verte

La Petite Maison Verte: May 2012

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Avocado Tartine (aka Avocado Toast)

I recently discovered a new obsession.

Thanks, Pinterest.

From the first time I saw it pinned, Avocado Toast looked so simple, so clean, so classic.  In a word:  perfect.  I knew I had to try it.

My initial bite was one of those close-your-eyes-and-savor moments.  Think Anton Ego's flashback to his childhood in the French countryside with his first bite of Remy's ratatouille.  The crisp, toasted baguette paired with the creamy and buttery avocado.  A hint of bright lemon and just slightly salty.  The textures and flavors in that one bite were everything a bite should be.

It's hard to believe that something so ridiculously simple could be so delicious, but this is the perfect example.  I first became aware of Avocado Toast from Kate's post on her blog.  Then, I saw it again on The Kitchn (here and here).

The idea is always the same:  mash a ripe avocado with a little lemon juice.  Spread the avocado onto some toasted bread and top with a pinch of sea salt.

You can get fancy with toppings if you wish, or eat it plain.  Arugula, shaved radishes, crushed red pepper flakes, truffle salt or a thin slice of prosciutto would be lovely.  I'm thinking of adding a poached egg on top next time.

Use good ingredients here because of the simplicity of this open-face sandwich.  A good quality bakery bread, ripe avocado and a nice sea salt really make all the difference.

sea salt / salt + arugula / salt + red pepper flakes  

Call it lunch.  Call it breakfast.  Call it a tartine.  Call it toast.  I think I'll just stick with "divine."

Avocado Tartine
serves 2

1 avocado
1/2 lemon
sea salt
4 slices of good bread, lightly toasted (baguette, sourdough, multi-grain, etc.)
additional toppings (optional):  arugula, crushed red pepper flakes, shaved radishes, smoked salmon, poached egg, etc.

In a medium bowl, mash the avocado with the juice from 1/2 a lemon.  Spread the avocado onto the toasted bread slices.  Sprinkle the sea salt over the avocado toasts, then add additional toppings if using.

I think this would make a really nice light appetizer for a small dinner party.  Slice the baguette cross-wise into small rounds, then drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and toast in a hot oven until lightly browned.  Then top with the avocado + lemon juice + sea salt.  Perhaps with a small piece of smoked salmon on top?

The other day I made a BL(A)T out of my Avocado Toast:  I started with the original avocado toast (with lemon juice and sea salt), then added a thin slice of tomato, some arugula and a slice of crispy, cooked bacon. Can I just say, I think I'm in love...

What is your absolute favorite sandwich?  I'm a PB+Banana Tartine kind of girl.  Oh, and then there's that whole Avocado Tartine business.  Definitely into the open-faced sandwiches....


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Rainbow Slaw with Agave-Lime Dressing

Memorial Day is just around the corner - wow, is it really almost June?!

Barbecues, cookouts, potlucks will ensue.  Burgers and dogs will be grilled.  Fireworks will be set.

Will you be ready?

This Rainbow Slaw has quickly become my favorite coleslaw.  Its colorful and beautiful and it tastes so fresh.  Plus, it doesn't use any mayo - just whole, real foods.  In fact, it's vegan.  Also gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free and nut-free.  I think I have all my food-allergy bases covered with this one.

It makes a gorgeous side-dish to barbecued chicken or a delicious and unexpected hot dog topper.  I grilled some Applegate Farms Organic Chicken & Apple Sausages until nicely charred, then served them inside a French baguette, topped with the slaw and a little dijon mustard.  Summer grilling at its best.

I love serving hot dogs or sausages inside baguettes - it adds a little bit of class to an otherwise simple food.  You simply cut a piece the same size as the hot dog or sausage, then use a knife to split the piece  3/4 of the way through.  Place the dog inside and top as you wish!  It's great because it doesn't have any dough softeners or preservatives like most packaged hot dog rolls, and you can often find whole wheat baguettes at most grocery stores, too.  Plus, you don't have to worry about having buns that are too long for your hot dogs, because you cut them to size.  And while I don't like having extra hot dog buns leftover, I am totally ok with having leftover french bread.  I'm just gonna come right out and say it's brilliant ;-)

Try this slaw, I assure you you won't regret it one bit.  I should mention, it's infinitely adaptable.  Don't have agave?  Use honey.  Don't like onion?  Substitute a bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped.  It's ok to play with your food.  Just don't throw it, OK?

Rainbow Slaw with Agave-Lime Dressing
serves 6-8 as a side-dish
adapted from The Kitchn

1/2 head of purple cabbage, cored
1/2 head of green cabbage, cored
3 medium carrots, peeled
4 green onions (white and green parts), thinly sliced
juice from 2 limes
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon agave nectar (or a little more, to taste)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or a little more, to taste)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper (or a little more, to taste)

Shred the cabbage finely using a very sharp chef's knife (or a mandoline or food processor shredding blade).  Using a box grater, grate the carrots (again, you could also use your food processor's shredding blade here too).  In a very large bowl, combine the shredded cabbage, carrots and the thinly sliced green onions.

In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, agave, salt and pepper.  Pour dressing over the cabbage and toss well.  Season with additional salt, pepper and agave as necessary.

The slaw will shrink in volume over time as the cabbage releases its moisture.  I think its best to serve this slaw within 1-2 days, but it will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator up to 3 days.

Serving ideas:

-  Use as a topping on grilled hot dogs or sausages
-  Serve on top of pulled/shredded barbecue chicken or pork sandwiches
-  Serve as a side-dish with barbecue chicken breasts or legs
-  Serve slaw on top of fish tacos (I like to use Mahi-Mahi but any white fish will work) with diced avocado, greek yogurt and lime wedges

What are your Memorial Day plans?  Headed to the Beach?  Does your family have a big cookout or set off your own fireworks?  Do tell!


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Monday, May 21, 2012

The Dirty Dozen & The Clean Fifteen

My sister and I were talking on the phone today about buying organic produce vs conventional.  We were both in agreement that it's SOO worth it to spend the money on organics if you can afford it due to all of the harmful chemicals, pesticides and fungicides that are loaded onto many conventionally grown fruits and vegetables.  While the effects of those chemicals are harmful to humans - especially children and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding - it is less widely known but also completely worth noting that the effects to the environment are just as harmful.

Conventional farmers spray insane amounts of chemicals onto the soil and the plants themselves.  The runoff from the farmland contaminates waterways and streams, causing all kinds of damage to the aquaculture, oh and by the way - it gets into a lot of our fish that we eat too, as a result.

There are so many reasons to choose organic produce that I would need an entire blog post to give it justice, but that's a post for another day....

Today, I wanted to share with you the Dirty Dozen list.  It's the list, compiled by the Environmental Working Group, of produce with the highest pesticide and chemical residue levels.  It's a great guide to use when you're deciding which organic fruits and vegetables are worth the extra price and which you can feel a little bit better about buying in the conventional variety.

This means that some of my FAVORITE fruits and veggies are some of the most contaminated.  Apples, strawberries, baby spinach, lettuce and blueberries are on the "Dirty" list.  We eat SO much lettuce and other leafy greens that I feel it is very important to buy the organic version, whereas we almost never eat potatoes so I often forget and just pick up the conventional variety if I ever do buy them.  I'm lucky that we can get fresh strawberries from local producers here in Florida, so I usually buy those from farms where I know no pesticides are used.

They also have a list called the Clean Fifteen which highlights the opposite end of the spectrum:  those fruits and veggies that typically have the least amount of pesticide and chemical residues present on them.  These are the items in the produce department which you can skip the organic and buy the conventional version and feel a little better about what chemicals might be present.

Happily, some of my other favorites are on THIS list!  Sweet potatoes, grapefruits, watermelon, mangoes, avocados and onions are items that I feel OK about buying from the conventional produce.  That being said, many times I can and do buy the organics, especially when its in-season and I see it for a good price!

Most of us can't afford to buy 100% organic fruits and vegetables all of the time.  Especially if we are eating the recommended servings of fresh fruits and vegetables every day.  Speaking for myself and Brian - we eat WAY more than the USDA's recommended servings of fresh veggies.  It's the bulk of our diet and therefore we end up spending a lot more of our food budget on produce than we do in other areas of the grocery store.  No lie, my shopping cart is always 2/3 full of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Since we eat so many fruits and veggies, I have to keep cost in mind when I'm shopping in the produce department.  We don't have a limitless budget.  So, I try to keep The Dirty Dozen list and the Clean Fifteen in mind when shopping.  And to lessen my environmental impact even further, I always try to choose the locally grown and in-season fruits and vegetables, and avoid those grown far away.  It takes ridiculous amounts of fuel and resources to bring out-of-season produce to the USA from South America or other far away places.  Choosing locally-grown, or even better, keeping your own garden is a great way to insure you are decreasing your environmental footprint and working to keep your family, and our environment, healthy.

Now, I have a question for you guys:  How do you feel about organics vs. conventional produce?  Do you spend the extra money to buy organics or do you think it's all a bunch of crap?  I'm hoping to get a discussion going, so feel free to share your opinions, even if you think they may not be in line with mine.  I'd love to hear some other perspectives!


Mango Yogurt Smoothie Pops

Today I'm going to share the recipe for these Mango Yogurt Smoothie Pops.  But first I just wanted to say hi to my new friends, the Tampa Bay Lady Bloggers!  Hi ladies!

Yesterday, I met up with a great group of local ladies who blog.

Photo c/o Caroline @My Fascinating Life

The Tampa Bay Lady Bloggers met up at the Hooker Tea Co. in St. Petersburg, FL yesterday afternoon (keep your thoughts to yourselves...bunch of ladies meeting up at the Hooker Tea Company...don't say it didn't cross your mind).  It was the group's second meet-up but my first and it was SO nice to finally meet some women whose blogs I have been following.

Photo c/o Caroline @ My Fascinating Life (Thank you!)

Basically what I'm trying to say is, I'm no longer just a blog-stalker because we KNOW each other now! ;-)

After I got home I was starving so I whipped up a quick Bruschetta Pizza (OMGAMAZINGLYDELICIOUS - recipe to come!) and afterwards I needed something sweet.  Well, lucky for me I had a batch of Mango Yogurt Smoothie Pops in my freezer that I had prepped yesterday.

Our starting lineup

These popsicles are SO creamy and smooth, sweet without being cloying and with a light tang from the yogurt.  They really taste just like a Mango Lassi in frozen popsicle form.

Thank you, blender.  You work hard for me.

They were very quick and easy to prepare:  everything gets tossed into a blender, the blender does the dirty work, you pour it into your popsicle moulds and then the freezer does the rest of the hard work!

Pour about 2/3-3/4 full

And since I'm not one who enjoys delayed gratification, I had enough left over in the blender for a few sips after pouring it into all of the moulds.  I may or may not have left a couple of the popsicles one-quarter empty so I would have enough left to drink.  May I remind you, this is a judgement-free zone.

Leave a little in the blender for sampling er, quality control.

I bought my popsicle mould at Marshalls for less than $10 but if you don't have a popsicle mould, you can always try the good ole' paper cup trick:  Pour your popsicle mixture into some small paper cups, once partially frozen (after about 1 hour) stick popsicle sticks (from the craft store) into the centers and freeze the rest of the way.  Voila!

Or for a greener alternative, use muffin tins or small juice glasses in stead of the paper cups.

See, no excuse not to make your own.  And can I tell you something?  These are SO much better than store-bought.  Know why?  They contain NO HFCS, NO artificial sugar, NO artificial colors or flavors, they have filling protein AND fiber from the greek yogurt and real fruit.

In summary, these are real food.  At it's best, I might add.

Mango Yogurt Smoothie Pops (Mango Lassi Pops)
makes 6 popsicles

2 cups frozen mango chunks, partially thawed
3/4 cup 2% plain greek yogurt (feel free to substitute non-fat or 4%, I prefer Fage to all other brands)
1/4 cup milk or non-dairy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-4 Tablespoons honey (depending on your taste preference and the sweetness of the mango)

In a blender, combine the partially-thawed mango chunks, yogurt, milk, vanilla and 2 tablespoons of honey.  Puree on high until smooth and no chunks remain.  Taste, and add additional honey 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture reaches your desired sweetness.

Pour popsicle mixture into your clean, dry popsicle moulds (about 3/4 of the way full) and insert the sticks.  Freeze at least 4 hours or until fully set.

To de-mould:  Hold one popsicle in your hand for 20-30 seconds to allow your body heat to warm the outside slightly, then remove the popsicle from its mould.  Alternatively, run the pop under lukewarm water for 10-20 seconds, then pull the pop out.  Enjoy!


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Joy's Blueberry Muffins

After our epic blueberry picking adventure a few weekends ago I couldn't get the idea of blueberry muffins out of my head.

These blueberries we picked weren't just any blueberries - they were pesticide-free, fresh off the blueberry bush and SO flavorful.  They were the BEST blueberries I've ever had.

And you can't use extraordinary blueberries in ordinary blueberry muffins, now can you?

So, where was I going to get a muffin recipe for my extra-special blueberries?  My baking guru of course, Joy the Baker.  She makes the loveliest of pies and takes the prettiest of pictures.  Her cookies, cakes and infused boozes all speak directly to my soul, and so that's how I know she and I would be friends in real life, obviously.  That, and I totally GET her sense of humor.  How do I know?  I listen to her podcasts with Tracy from Shutterbean and laugh hys-ter-ically, no matter where I am or who else is around.  I have gotten more than one weird look as a result, but it's so worth it.

Joy's Browned Butter Blueberry Muffins are glorious.  Topped with a crumbly coffee-cake-like topping, the blueberries take center stage and together with the caramel notes from the browned butter, they taste like perfect harmony.  White flour and refined sugar are involved, so these certainly aren't my typical "healthy food" muffin, but they're 100% worth the indulgence.  When you eat real foods most of the time, there's no guilt when you indulge.  We must all splurge a little, now and then.

Happy splurging :-)

Check out Joy's site for the recipe.  I followed her notes exactly and was rewarded with 12 perfectly delicious muffins.


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Monday, May 7, 2012

Island Pork Tenderloin with Blueberry-Watermelon Salsa

This is one of those recipes that is easy enough to whip up on a weeknight but unique enough to serve to company.  I've made it a couple of times and varied up the salsa depending on what fruit I have available.

For the first iteration of this recipe, I made a Pineapple-Citrus salsa but this time we had a whole watermelon and at least 5 pounds of blueberries (from blueberry picking the other weekend) so Blueberry-Watermelon salsa it was.  Delicious, and a perfect compliment to the caribbean flavors going on with the pork.

You can double the recipe for two pork tenderloins to serve 6-8.  For the salsa, substitute whatever fruit you have on hand:  pineapple and tangerine work great, or try grapefruit and naval oranges.

Island Pork Tenderloin with Blueberry-Watermelon Salsa
serves 3-4
liberally adapted from Gourmet (as found on Epicurious)

1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
(1) 1 1/4 lb pork tenderloin
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Blueberry-Watermelon Salsa, recipe below

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

In a small bowl, combine the first 7 ingredients.  Rub the mustard all over the pork tenderloin to coat.  Then, coat the pork tenderloin with the spice rub.

In a 12-inch oven-proof skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until hot and sear the pork tenderloin on all sides, 3-4 minutes per side.  Transfer the skillet into the oven and roast 15-25 minutes until the internal temperature registers 145 degrees in the center.  Remove the skillet from the oven, tent the pork with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute (and the internal temperature of the pork will rise to 160 degrees).  Slice pork and serve topped with the salsa.

Blueberry-Watermelon Salsa
serves 3-4

1/2 cup blueberries
1 cup diced watermelon (1/2'' dice)
1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
2 tablespoons sliced green onions
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno
1 tablespoon minced cilantro
salt and pepper, to taste

In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the salsa and season with the salt and pepper.  Refrigerate one hour or more and serve on top of the pork.

dinner is served, with turnip "fries" and salad


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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Mixed Green Salad with Sweet Corn Cakes, Bacon and Goat Cheese

What if I told you that you could eat bacon, real bacon, and not feel guilty about it?

Yep, you can.  And I'm going to tell you how:

Eat a small amount.

Wow.  Earth-shattering secret, I know.  But for some reason,  so many people tend to think that you have to eat a lot of something in order to taste it or feel satisfied by it.

I'm here to prove to you that that's not true.  Far from it.

When it comes to bacon, I'm a real-deal kinda gal.  Give me real bacon or give me death!  Please don't try to give me turkey disguised as bacon.  Don't give me soy that has been pressed flat and dyed pink and try to pass it off as the real deal, because I assure you, I'm not fooled.

ONE real slice of bacon, preferably thick and center cut, smoked with applewood and cooked until crispy is more delicious, more satisfying, more preferable, more REAL than one hundred slices of the fake stuff. And ONE single slice of the real deal, crumbled on top of these sweet corn cakes and served on a big bed of mixed baby greens with a little goat cheese - that's the real deal too.  One slice is all you need.

Truth be told, you could certainly omit the bacon from the salad when you serve the corn cakes but it really compliments the sweet corn and mild onion perfectly.  And in my opinion, one slice of bacon isn't going to throw anyone's "diet" off course.

We had this for a light dinner but I think it would be a really delicious brunch dish or first course or side salad for a Southern dinner party.

Sweet Corn Cakes
makes 4-6 corn cakes, serves 2 as a dinner salad, or more if using as a side-dish (this recipe can easily be doubled)
adapted from Martha Stewart

1 teaspoon + 1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 1/2 cups frozen or fresh sweet corn kernels
1 cup finely diced zucchini (the pieces should be about the size of the corn kernels, from 1 small zucchini)
kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
2 green onions, thinly sliced (white and green parts)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons cornmeal

Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add the corn and zucchini and season with salt and pepper.  Cook until slightly softened, about 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Transfer to a medium bowl and allow to cool slightly, about 5 minutes, before mixing in the sliced green onions, beaten egg and cornmeal.  The mixture will look like it won't hold together but it will thicken slightly as it stands for 1-2 minutes, and it does hold together in the frying pan.

Wipe clean the skillet you used for the vegetables, and in it heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  When the oil is hot, use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to scoop dollops of the corn and zucchini mixture onto the skillet, spacing them about 1-2 inches apart and pressing the measuring cup down just slightly to flatten a bit.  Let the cakes cook 3-5 minutes until golden, then gently flip using a thin metal spatula and cook on the second side another 2-4 minutes or until fully set.  Once cooked, transfer the cooked corn cakes onto a paper-towel lined plate to drain.

Serve warm or at room temperature, see below for serving suggestion.

Mixed Greens with Sweet Corn Cakes, Bacon and Goat Cheese
for 1 serving.  (this can easily be doubled to serve two as an main course, or more if a side-dish)

1 slice bacon, cooked until crispy, drained on paper towels and cooled
2 or more cups mixed baby greens
2-3 Sweet Corn Cakes (see recipe above)
1 oz goat cheese or feta
optional:  chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, sliced green onions, etc. for topping salad
vinaigrette (try my stand-by Balsamic Vinaigrette)

Break up the crispy cooked bacon into small, bite-sized pieces.

Place the mixed greens into a serving bowl and top with optional salad toppings.  Top the salad with the Sweet Corn Cakes.  Sprinkle the crumbled bacon and goat cheese over the salad and serve with the vinaigrette.