Better Late Than Never: Christmas continued

I know I’m super late with this, but I still wanted to share my Christmas vacation adventures with my parents.  Better late than never, right?

December 26-27
After our train ride back to Nice on December 26, we took the afternoon and evening to settle in and go to dinner on the Cours Saleya and then to the Christmas market.  The next day, I showed them the medical school where I work, and we continued up the hill to Cimiez, where we visited the Franciscan monastery, museum, and garden, which was really beautiful, even in December.  Then we made our way over to the Matisse Museum, which was really cool and reminded us of some of Cat’s work 🙂  After a picnic lunch, we walked down to the Promenade des Anglais to sit on the famous blue chairs and grab a drink at one of the beach restaurants.  Pizza and pastries for dinner! 🙂

Franciscan monastery

Franciscan monastery

Garden behind the monastery

Garden behind the monastery

Flowers blooming in December!

Flowers blooming in December!

Matisse Museum

Matisse Museum

Blue chairs by the sea :)

Blue chairs by the sea 🙂

Aubergines on my pizza?  Yes please!

Aubergines on my pizza? Yes please!

December 28
I really wanted to show them the fruit/vegetable/flower market so we walked to the market in the morning and enjoyed a few breakfast pastries.  In the afternoon, we took the bus to Monaco, where we walked around the Christmas market and indulged in some waffles, typical French carnival food… yummm!  We walked around for the afternoon and saw the Monte Carlo casino (and actually went inside!), the palace, and the cathedral where Prince Ranier and Grace Kelly were married.  On the way back to the bus stop, we saw the most beautiful sunset, and the Christmas lights were spectacular!

Breakfast from the market

Breakfast from the market

Eating by the sea :)

Eating by the sea 🙂

Christmas decorations in Monaco

Christmas decorations in Monaco

Palace

Palace

Cathedral

Cathedral

Waffles with whipped cream and Nutella!

Waffles with whipped cream and Nutella!

Sunset over the port in Monaco

Sunset over the port in Monaco

Monte Carlo casino

Monte Carlo casino

December 29
Saturday morning started with a trip to my favorite museum in Nice— le Musée d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain (MAMAC), followed by a picnic lunch and a walk up to and around the chateau.  The chateau is my absolute favorite view of Nice, and we even saw a rainbow in the waterfall!  A trip to Fenocchios for some ice cream before watching the sunset on the Promenade des Anglais was the perfect end to the afternoon.  Once again, an amazing dinner on the Cours Saleya.

Waterfall at the chateau

Waterfall at the chateau

ICE CREAM :)

ICE CREAM 🙂

Sunset on the Promenade des Anglais

Sunset on the Promenade des Anglais

December 30
On Sunday, we decided to spend the day away from “tourist-y” Nice on the small island of Ste Marguerite, which is a 15 minute ferry ride from Cannes.  There are no cars allowed on the island and since it was December, there weren’t many people there either.  It was beautiful!  There’s a small fort on the island, which we visited, as well as a museum.  We also visited the building where the Man in the Iron Mask was imprisoned before he was transferred to the Bastille.  We ate lunch on a little beach and took a walk around the island and down the Allée des Eucalyptus.  Chinese for dinner 🙂

View of Cannes from the ferry

View of Cannes from the ferry

The fort and the museum on Ste Marguerite

The fort and the museum on Ste Marguerite

We found a friend :)

We found a friend 🙂

Allee des Eucalyptus

Allee des Eucalyptus

Beaches on Ste Marguerite

Beaches on Ste Marguerite

December 31
We managed to find a few places open on New Years Eve, so we spent the morning at the Chagall museum (the only museum in Nice that isn’t free), which is very nice.  But this afternoon was my favorite part of the week.  We went to St. Paul de Vence, which is a little walled village at the top of a hill with a bunch of little artist galleries, candy shops, and cafés.  We walked around looking at the art galleries for a few hours and watched the sunset from the hill.  We went home and made dinner (chicken and leek pie) and walked down to the Promenade des Anglais to see the few (measly) fireworks at midnight.  I missed our big family celebration, but to make up for it we went back at the apartment and indulged in pastries and champagne 🙂

Chagall artwork

Chagall artwork

Chagall artwork

Chagall artwork

A street in St. Paul de Vence

A street in St. Paul de Vence

Sunset from St. Paul de Vence

Sunset from St. Paul de Vence

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

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January 1-2
The last few days of visiting were spent mostly relaxing and hanging out, doing some souvenir shopping, walking around the Christmas market again, and eating more delicious food.  Then it was time to say goodbye 😦  I loved hanging out with my parents for a week.  It was a different, but fantastic and memorable way to celebrate the holidays! 🙂

 

Our French word of the day:
congélateur (con-JAY-la-tour)- freezer
Je garde toujours des viandes, des légumes, et des pâtes dans le congélateur pour un repas vite.
I always keep meat, vegetables, and pasta in the freezer for a quick meal.

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Sunday Night Dinner: Sweet Potato

I had this really good pumpkin curry once at Thai Sookdee, one of my favorite restaurants in Evanston.  When I happened upon this recipe, adapted from here, I thought I’d see how close I could come.  It’s similar to the curry recipe I did before with the cauliflower, but I added chicken this time and switched up the spices and vegetables a bit.  Not too bad! 🙂

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Sweet Potato Curry

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, minced
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp cinnamon
2 large chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes, drained
300 ml (1-1/4 cups) chicken or vegetable stock
400 ml (1-3/4 cups) coconut milk
200 g (about 1 cup or so) frozen peas

Instructions:

1. Heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan or wok over medium-high heat.  Add onions and sauté for 3-4 minutes.

2. Add spices and sauté for 1 minute, stirring frequently.

3. Add chicken, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes.  Cook for 3-4 minutes.

Onions, spices, chicken

Onions, spices, chicken

4. Add the stock and coconut milk.  Bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.

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5. Add the frozen peas and simmer for 5 more minutes.

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Serves 6 (I froze half of it for a few quick and easy dinners when I get back from Belgium!)  The great thing about this recipe is that it’s another versatile one.  Try adding chickpeas and spinach right at the end to beef it up a bit more, or eliminate the chicken and substitute vegetable stock for the chicken stock to make a vegetarian/vegan dish.  I want to try adding eggplant, too!  Serve with white or brown rice.

YUM!

YUM!

 

Our French word today is:
admis (ad-MEE/MEEZ)- accepted
Jusqu’à présent, j’ai été admise dans les facultés de médicine à Wake Forest et University of Cincinnati !
So far, I was accepted to the medical schools at Wake Forest and University of Cincinnati!

Sunday Night Dinner: Red Peppers

It’s a freezing, rainy Monday morning and as I’m writing this, I’m sitting at home eating a warm homemade bagel with cream cheese and jam.  Perfect start to the week 🙂

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After 2 and a half weeks city-hopping in the US, I’m finally back in France and settling back in in Nice.  I traveled 13,042 miles (roughly) and satisfied my cravings for sushi, Indian food, bagels, Starbucks coffee, Chipotle, sticky buns, French fries, pancakes, Krispy Kremes, and (really good) grilled cheese.  So what better way to get settled in here than to make another Sunday Night Dinner? 🙂

Truth be told, I wasn’t exactly prepared to be making SND this week, but I had a red pepper from the market in my fridge and all the necessary ingredients for stuffed pepper (which I’ve been wanting to try with red instead of green peppers anyways).

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Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 30 min

(Note: I only made 1 large pepper, but the following recipe is for 4 peppers)

Ingredients:
4 peppers (any color—I really liked the red variety in this one)
½ lb sausage
1 large onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 zucchini (mushrooms would also be good), cubed
2 cups cooked rice
1 cup tomato sauce
½ cup shredded cheese (I used Emmental, but parmesan or mozzarella would be really good too)

Instructions:

1. Wash the peppers, slice the tops off, and remove the seeds.

2. Brown the sausage in a skillet. Break up the bits of sausage as best as possible with a spatula, so you have small pieces.

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3. Remove the sausage from the skillet (I also removed most of the grease/oil).  Add the garlic, onions, and zucchini to the skillet and sauté for 3-4 minutes.

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4. Add the sausage and cooked rice and sauté for a few more minutes.

5. Add half of the tomato sauce and half of the cheese.

6. Spoon the sausage and rice mixture into the peppers, filling them completely.

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7. Place the peppers in a lightly greased baking dish.  Spoon the remaining tomato sauce over the peppers and sprinkle with the remaining cheese.

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8. Bake in a 425F (220C) oven for 30-40 minutes.


I think this is my favorite stuffed pepper recipe.  Besides being simple and quick, I like the spice of the sausage and the rice to break up the filling a little bit.  Plus, the red pepper was perfect!  I served it with a salad and a glass of wine 🙂

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French word of the day:
glisser (glee-SAY)- to slip
J’ai glissé sur la glace et me suis fait mal.
I slipped on the ice and hurt myself.

Christmas in Paris

I guess after almost 2 weeks I’m fully rested from my holiday with my parents, so over the next few days I’ll post about our Christmas adventures!

I met them in Paris on Christmas Eve and we went out almost right away to see the famous window displays at the original Galeries Lafayette (kind of like a Bloomingdales equivalent).  This year was the 100th anniversary of the store, and Louis Vuitton designed the displays.  We also went inside to see the Swarvoski Christmas tree, which is 70 feet tall and has over 5,000 crystal stars!

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Dancing penguins in the display window

Dancing penguins in the display window

Flamingos

Flamingos

 

A dog wearing headphones

A dog wearing headphones

LEMURS

LEMURS

We found a nice little Catholic Church called Sainte Etienne du Mont for 11pm mass on Christmas Eve.  It was small, but really pretty, and the mass was in French.

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On Christmas Day we spent the morning/early afternoon at the Eiffel Tower, walking around and taking a bunch of pictures.  We found a giant Christmas market that we walked through with delicious looking food and pastries and souvenirs and art.  Interesting fact: the Eiffel Tower was built for the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris and was almost taken down in 1909.  It was saved by its use as a telecommunication tower.  Also, the Eiffel Tower sinks 6 inches in the winter!

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We went to Christmas lunch at Chez Clement, which I would definitely recommend.  Mom and I split the ravioli with wilted leeks for an appetizer, while Dad opted for French onion soup.  For the main course, I got the duck confit, Dad got the beef rotisserie plate, and Mom got the hanger beef.  We all got coffee and crème brulée for dessert.  It was a perfect meal, slow and leisurely, perfect portions, a nice atmosphere, and great company 🙂

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Mmm creme brulee for dessert :)

Mmm creme brulee for dessert 🙂

After lunch, we walked to Notre Dame.  This year was the 850th anniversary, so they were televising the masses and goings-on around Notre Dame.  Interesting fact: The largest bell in Notre Dame’s bell tower is named “Emmanuel.” It was cast in 1631, and weighs over 28,000 pounds!  Then we walked down the Pont de l’Archeveche and saw all the love padlocks, a “custom” in several countries by which padlocks are affixed to a fence, gate, bridge or similar public fixture by sweethearts to symbolize their everlasting love.

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Love padlocks

Love padlocks

After that, we took the metro to the Arc de Triomphe and started walking down the Champs Elysée, which was crazy busy!  But the lights were gorgeous.  We walked past another giant Christmas market with all kinds of carnival food and souvenirs.  We finally ended at the Place de la Concorde.  Interesting fact: Each corner of the octagonal square of the Place de la Concorde features a statue representing a French city, including Lyon, Marseille, Bordeaux, Lille, Strasbourg, Rouen, Nantes and Brest.  In the center stands the 3,200-years-old Obelisk of Luxor, which is a pink granite column weighing 220 tons and with a height of 23 meters that comes from the Egyptian temple of Luxor.

 

Looking down the Champs Elysee towards the Arc de Triomphe

Looking down the Champs Elysee towards the Arc de Triomphe

Place de la Concorde

Place de la Concorde

When we got back to the hotel, we Skyped Cat, Mel, and CJ and said hi to the family at home! J  It was certainly a different Christmas than I’ve ever experienced, but it was a good one 🙂

familyxmas

 

French word of the day:
manchot (ma-SHOW)- penguin
Il y avait des manchots qui portaient des sacs à mains dans une vitrine aux Galeries Lafayette!
There were penguins carrying handbags in a window display at the Galeries Lafayette !

 

Sunday Night Dinner: Brussel Sprouts

Brussel sprouts are one of those vegetables that get very little love, which seems strange because they can be prepared so many ways, including boiling, steaming, stir frying, and roasting.  These tiny cabbages are also also rich in vitamin K and sulforaphane, a chemical believed to have potent anticancer properties.  I found a recipe that dresses them up a little bit to make a delicious side dish 🙂

Secret ingredient: Brussel sprouts (choux de Bruxelles)

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Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes

Ingredients:
2 tbsp butter, divided
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 tbsp cider vinegar
3 tsp white sugar
300 g (about 2 cups) brussel sprouts, halved
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 c water
2-3 slices of bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and cooked until crispy
salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions:
1. Melt 1 tbsp butter in medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Sauté until soft and golden, about 10 minutes.
2. Combine the cider vinegar and sugar and add to onions.  Stir until brown and glazed, about 3 minutes. (I would eat these onions alone, they are SO good).

YUM

YUM

3. Heat the olive oil in separate large skillet over medium-high heat. Add in the halved brussels sprouts and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sauté until brown at edges, about 6 minutes.

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4. Add 1/4 cup water and 1 tbsp butter. Sauté until most of water evaporates and sprouts are tender but still bright green, about 5 minutes.
5. Mix in the cooked, crispy bacon and top with the onions.  Serve warm.

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Serves 2.  I made these brussel sprouts to go along with an easy marinated chicken: marinate 2 chicken breasts for an hour in a mixture of 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, 2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp melted butter, 3 tbsp honey, juice of 1 lemon, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground cumin, 1/2 tsp paprika.  Grill or broil for 20 minutes at 400F (205C).

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French word of the day:
tricoter (tree-ko-TAY)- to knit
Je tricote un chapeau parce qu’il fait froid!  Le chapeau et mon écharpe vont bien ensemble.
I’m knitting a hat because it’s cold outside!  It matches my scarf.

My First 10K!

I mentioned in a previous post  that I’m starting to train for a half marathon in April, and today I completed my first milestone in training.  I finished my first 10K (6.2 mile) race– the Prom Classic in Nice!  My goal was to finish in under 62 minutes, and I came in at 1:01:28, so I was pretty happy about that 🙂

I’ve been carbo-loading on bread and pasta for the last few nights, and after a short yoga session this morning, I fueled up with some toast and a banana, filled my water bottle, put on my running shoes, and made my way into the city.  It was funny to see all the runners get on the tram into the city, knowing we were all going to the same place.

The course was a loop along the Mediterranean Sea, from the beginning of the Promenade des Anglais to the Nice airport and back.  It was a beautiful morning– about 56F and sunny.  I’d never run more than 5 miles before today, so I was crossing my fingers that I’d get through that extra 1.2 miles.  The race started in 5 waves, depending on your goal time.  When I was about a mile into the race, the first runners were already coming back down the Promenade!  The first place finisher this year finished in 28:50!  I reached the 8K (about 5 miles) mark pretty painlessly, but the last 2K were a little difficult.  I guess I have a lot of work to do before April!

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Overall the race was great!  The course, the time, the weather.  My only complaint was post-race organization.  The finish-line area was too small to hold all the runners, so it took forever to get to the water table.  Plus, there were no bagels or fruit left by the time I’d finished!  Oh, well.  My post-race indulgence was waiting for me in my freezer at home: Ben and Jerry’s Caramel Chew Chew ice cream 🙂 🙂 🙂

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Obligatory sweaty post-race picture 🙂

 

Our French word for today:
courir (coo-REER)- to run (because why not?!)
J’ai couru 10 kilometres aujourd’hui et mes jambes me font mal!
I ran 10 kilometers today and my legs hurt!

New Years Eve Dinner: Leeks

My parents have been here in Nice for the holidays and we’ve been eating out A LOT and enjoying every bite 🙂 (more on that later).  But I’ll start recounting our week backwards because I decided to make my Sunday Night Dinner this week on New Years Eve.  In France, New Years Eve is called la Saint Sylvestre and they celebrate with a feast at night called le Réveillon.  The feast typically includes champagne, some type of sea food, and foie gras (duck or goose liver), so we made do with what we had.  We got a small bottle of champagne, had shrimp and garlic butter sauce as an appetizer, and of course French pastries after dinner 🙂

Made by mom :)

Made by mom 🙂

This is my life :)

This is my life 🙂

This week’s ingredient: leeks (poireaux).  I was inspired by an appetizer my mom and I had on Christmas of mini ravioli on a bed of wilted leeks that was DELICIOUS.  Chicken pot pie is a dish I associate with home and cold weather, so I decided on a chicken and leek pie with mushrooms and potatoes, adapted from here.

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Ingredients:
Pie crust (I used a boxed one since that’s what I had in the cupboard, but any standard pie crust with flour, butter, and water or even a pre-made puff pastry crust will do)
1 large potato, peeled and diced (1/4 inch – 1/2 inch cubes)
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
500 g (about 1/4 pound) boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut in small chunks
2 leeks (just the white parts), thinly sliced
7-8 champignons de Paris OR medium-sized white button mushrooms, sliced
350 mL (about 1.5 c) chicken or vegetable stock
1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp cold water
4 tbsp creme fraiche
1 beaten egg for glazing
salt and pepper to taste

Key ingredients: potatoes, chicken, mushrooms, and LEEKS

Key ingredients: potatoes, chicken, mushrooms, and LEEKS

Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 350F (180C).  Prepare the pie crust, cover, chill for 30 minutes.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the potato.  Boil for about 10 minutes, until you can insert a knife easily into a cube of potato (but not so long that the potato starts to become mushy).  Drain.
3. Heat a large pan with the butter and olive oil.  Fry the chicken for 3-4 minutes.  Add the leaks and mushrooms and fry for another 5 minutes, until soft.
4. Add the stock to the pan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.

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5. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken, leeks, and mushrooms from the stock pan to a 1 to 2 liter pie or casserole dish.  Add the potatoes and stir to distribute evenly.
6. In a separate bowl, mix the flour and cold water to make a paste.  Thin with 2 tbsp stock, then add the paste to the stock pan and stir on the heat non-stop until thickened.
7. Remove from the heat, add the creme fraiche, season with salt and pepper.

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8. Pour over the leeks/potatoes/chicken mixture.

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9. Flour your counter and roll out the pastry dough until just larger than the dish.

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10. Carefully lay the pastry over the filling and push the edges of the pastry against the edges of the pie pan.  Make a small hole in the center of the pie.  Brush the pastry with beaten egg.

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9. Bake for 30-35 minutes until golden.

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10. Cool slightly before cutting and serving.

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The great part about this recipe is that it’s SO versatile.  If you like more potato, add more potato; if you’re a vegetarian, take out the chicken, if you like more sauce, double the stock.  You could even add more vegetables, like carrots or corn.  Personally, I would probably use more chicken to make it more substantial, more leeks because it’s the star ingredient, and more sauce, and I’d bake it in a smaller, deeper dish to make bigger slices.  This recipe yielded about 4 servings.

So Happy New Year!  Here’s to a happy, healthy 2013, wherever you are 🙂

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French word of the day:
billet (bee-LAY)- ticket
J’ai acheté un billet de train pour aller à Paris!
I bought a train ticket to go to Paris!

A Few Months of Firsts

I’ve been here almost 2 and a half months and am pretty much settling into everyday life in Nice—“la vie quotidienne.”  I’m trying to take advantage of my time away from work and trying to keep myself busy, so I’ve tried a whole bunch of new things.

Knitting
I taught myself how to knit!  Mostly through online tutorials and YouTube videos.  Here’s picture of the first scarf I knitted for myself (and the link to the pattern).  I’m currently knitting a hat and scarf for Em for Christmas and I’ve added slippers for myself to my list.  I usually knit while making my way through 10 seasons of Friends and 8 seasons of Will and Grace 🙂

photo

Yoga
I’ve never done yoga before, not even the “sunrise yoga” during New Student Week at Northwestern or whatever.  I’m not very flexible and I don’t have spectacular balance, but I wanted to try it anyways, so I signed up for a month of Bikram Yoga.  For those of you who don’t know, Bikram Yoga is 90 minutes of yoga in 105 degree heat, and you burn 1000 calories!  I’ve seriously never sweated so much in my life.  It was intense and hard and took me a few times to get used to it, but it was one of those activities that made me feel healthy and relaxed afterwards.  It was definitely worth the 40 euros and now that I know some of the asanas (positions), I can do it at home.  I won’t be burning 1000 calories, but it will help me relax.

Running
Ok, it’s not actually my first time running, but it’s my first time training for a race other than a triathlon.  Since I went from playing ice hockey 3 times a week this summer to not playing at all since I’ve been in France, I decided I needed something to keep me active.  Running is the easiest, cheapest way to stay in shape here.  Plus, Nice is blessed with BEAUTIFUL weather (today is December 23 and it’s 60 degrees and sunny) and a gorgeous path along the Mediterranean Sea, so I can run outside most of the time.  I decided I needed a goal to actually be motivated to run everyday, so I found a half marathon in Nice this spring.  Now I’ve never run more than 4 miles at a time, so this is going to be quite a challenge.  In my training I’m up to 4.5 miles and I’ve got a few races in mind as “milestones” before the half marathon:

10K: January 6
10 mile race: February 17
HALF MARATHON: April 21

Now that that’s out there for everyone to see/read, I have to actually stick with it, right?  Wish me luck!

Raclette
One new experience that probably cancelled out several days of running was introduced to me by Melodie, a friend from hockey.  Her parents live in Nice (about 10 minutes away from me by car) and she and Andreea were in town to visit for the holidays and they invited me over for lunch.  It was so nice to see a few familiar faces 🙂

If you like cheese, you would LOVE raclette.  Traditional raclette involves heating a giant wheel of cheese and scraping off the melted part.

Wikipedia image

Wikipedia image

Our lunch was a more modern version of raclette.  Basically, raclette involves an electric table-top grill with small pans in which you heat slices of cheese.  The cheese is accompanied by platters of boiled potatoes, charcuterie (sliced prepared meats), cornichons (tiny pickles), and salad.  Once the cheese is nice and melty in the little pan, you pour it over your potatoes and meats, then pop in another slice.  At our raclette lunch, we had a peppery cheese, a plain cheese, a bleu-ish cheese, and a smoked cheese (my favorite).

Boiled potatoes in the white bowl on top of the grill, cheesy goodness under the grill :)

Boiled potatoes in the white bowl on top of the grill, cheesy goodness under the grill 🙂

Our lunch was accompanied by some very nice conversation.  Melodie and her family have lived in several different countries and her dad gave some great advice.  He said every country they’ve lived in has been different from the last (obviously), but the key is to not focus on what’s missing from the place you are now, but instead to focus on what this place has that all the others don’t.  Saudi Arabia is different from Italy is different from France is different from the US and each place has their own culture and different things to offer.  That really made me think, because I think I’ve been living the last few months with a “make the best of it” kind of attitude, which isn’t really the same thing.  My goal for the next 6 months is to discover all the things France has that the US doesn’t, instead of trying manipulate everything in France to being like the US.

French word of the day:
racler (ra-KLAY)- to scrape
Quand le fromage fond, tu dois le racler et le mettre sur les pommes de terre.
When the cheese melts, you have to scrape it off and put it on the potatoes.

Sunday Night Dinner: Mushrooms

Ok, so I have to tell you that as I’m writing this post, I’m sitting at Emilie’s Cookies in Old Nice eating a banana Nutella cupcake and drinking hot coffee and it’s wonderful and feels just like home 🙂  I think I’ve found my new favorite hangout spot.

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This week’s secret ingredient is: MUSHROOMS– champignons de Paris to be exact (they don’t have Portobellos here, that I could find)  So I made really easy stuffed mushrooms with 2 kinds of cheese, spinach, and hazelnuts… yummmm.  Adapted from here.

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Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:
8 champignons de Paris (probably equivalent to about 4 Portobellos)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp + 2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 oz spinach (I used fresh spinach, but you could use frozen, too)
2 tbsp breadcrumbs
2 tbsp parmesan cheese
3 oz goat cheese
2 tbsp crushed hazelnuts (could also use walnuts)

Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 400F (205C)
2. To prepare the mushrooms, wipe them off with a damp paper towel and remove the stems.  I scraped the gills out (because these were a bit small and I wanted to make room for the filling), but you don’t have to.

Gills in the mushroom (left), gills removed (right)

Gills in the mushroom (left), gills removed (right)

3. Whisk together the balsamic vinegar, 2 tbsp olive oil, salt, and pepper.
4. Toss the mushrooms in the oil and vinegar mixture, place on a cookie sheet, and roast for about 10 minutes.  Cool to room temperature.

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5. While the mushrooms are cooling, saute the onion and garlic in the remaining 2 tbsp of olive oil.  Add the spinach and some salt and cook until the spinach is wilted.

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6. In another pan, roast crushed hazelnuts for 3-4 minutes.
7. In a bowl, mix together goat cheese, parmesan cheese, breadcrumbs, the spinach and onion mixture, and the hazelnuts.

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8. Scoop about 1 tbsp of filling into each mushroom cap.
9. Bake for another 5-7 minutes.

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10. Serve hot with spaghetti and pesto.

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I was doubtful that this would turn out well because I was originally expecting to use Portobello mushrooms, but it was delicious!  I LOVE goat cheese, and the hazelnuts gave it some very nice texture.  The 8 small mushrooms gave me 2 servings.  Also, it’s ANOTHER vegetarian recipe 🙂

French word for today:
colis (ko-LEE)- parcel, package
On fête Noël dans 7 jours– j’ai reçu plusieurs colis cette semaine, mais j’en ai aussi envoyé plusieurs !
We celebrate Christmas in 7 days– I’ve received several packages this week, but I’ve also sent several!

Sunday Night Dinner: Ratatouille

I can’t believe I’ve never made ratatouille before, especially after living with so many vegetarians last year (and this recipe is vegan)!  It’s seriously SO easy and SO delicious.  All you do is chop up a bunch of vegetables, throw them in a pot, and let them do their thing while you blog/do laundry/knit/Facebook.  Also, it’s the perfect meal for this time of year—a nice hot bowl of ratatouille, a crusty baguette, a warm blanket, and a book.  Sounds perfect 🙂

There’s also something comforting about this meal for me, which is weird because I’ve never had ratatouille before.  I have to say though that recently I’ve started to feel things kind of “click” here. Maybe I’ve just been in a good mood lately, but I’m finally feeling like I’m starting to establish myself the teensiest bit in Nice (but I don’t want to jinx it!).  I can get around without using a map, I’ve got friends to go out with, and I’m starting to think about the things I want to do when my parents come in December and Emily comes in March.  And the feeling all started this week with ratatouille, so I can tell this is going to become a comfort meal for me.

There’s not one “secret” ingredient this week, since I got all my vegetables at the market!

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Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes

Ingredients:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
1 small eggplant
2 zucchinis
2 tomatoes
1 large green bell pepper
2-3 tsp herbes de provence (OR 2-3 tsp Italian seasoning OR 1 tsp dried basil + 1/2 tsp dried oregano + 1/2 tsp dried thyme + 1/2 tsp dried rosemary)
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:
1. Quarter and thinly slice the onion; mince the garlic; cube the eggplant and zucchini– try to make the sizes of the cubes as uniform as possible; remove the seeds from the tomatoes and roughly chop; roughly chop the bell pepper.

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2. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large pot or Dutch oven.

3. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring often, until the onions are soft, about 6-7 minutes.
4. Add the eggplant and stir to coat with olive oil.
5. Add the zucchini and peppers, stir.

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6. Cover and cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep vegetables from sticking.

7. Add the tomatoes, herbs, salt, and pepper.

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8. Cover and cook over low heat for about 20 minutes.  The eggplant should be tender but not too soft.
9. Serve hot.

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This recipe made 2 servings (but I went back for seconds both times!)  Also, make sure you have a nice crusty baguette for afterwards to soak up all the juices.  Bon Appetit!

French word of the day:
comprimé (KO-pree-may)- pill, tablet
Il prend un comprimé contre le mal de tête.
He takes a pill for his headache.