Loving Lately: Baguette and Brie

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Sometimes I just love to get a fresh-baked baguette and hunk of creamy brie for an afternoon snack…preferably with a glass of wine. My dad has always loved brie with bread, but I especially grew fond of this snack after doing an exchange to France in high school.

I went to France with 16 other classmates in the middle of winter, flying first to Paris and then taking the TGV (super fast train) to our exchange town – Besançon. After our group got a little lost between the airport and the TGV station, we arrived very late at night. Our exchange families picked each of us up, and we were living the French life from there for the next week and a half. The very first thing we did on the very first morning was walk to the local bakery to pick up a baguette. At the time, I couldn’t fully appreciate the wonderfulness of that simple trip. I was tired and jet-lagged and wondering why we’d be waking up early just to get a loaf of bread. But that baguette was one of the best I’ve ever had in my entire lifetime…as was every other baguette enjoyed in France. I didn’t fully realize it at the time, but boy do I see that now! Is it that much better to have the real thing? In my opinion, yes.

And though I can’t as easily (or if you want to be literal…at all) get French baguettes here in the states, there are some local bakeries who do a pretty good job. And as for the cheese, you can find French brie all over. Plus, many creameries make a nice brie. It’s just when you try to replicate the French baguette, it seems to be missing a certain je ne said quoi.

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I recently picked up a baguette along with some North Carolina made brie, Carolina Moon, by Chapel Hill Creamery. I found both of these goodies at the 7th Street Market.

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They were delicious straight up, as well as with some spiced red lentil soup. Yum!

Hopefully, I’ll get to enjoy authentic French baguettes again one day. Till then, I’ll be hitting up my local bakeries for the next best thing.

Oil-Free Fruit and Nut Granola {Recipe}

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Have you ever read the ingredient list of some granola products out there? I’ve seen some pretty good packaged options, but many are full of not only additives, but excess sugar and oil, too. I’m okay with a little oil and sugar, but dad’s recently thrown a kink in his new vegan diet – he’s avoiding oil, as well. When I was home for the holidays, I decided to whip up a new granola recipe just for him, so that presented a new challenge. The granola dad had been eating was pretty decent, but I think homemade is always better. Since I had plenty of free time, I experimented and came up with this tasty fruit and nut granola.

Oil-Free Fruit and Nut Granola Recipe

Thanks to the mix of dried fruits, this bowl of granola was vibrant and colorful.

Oil-Free Fruit and Nut Granola Recipe

Here’s the granola sans fruit.

Oil-Free Fruit and Nut Granola Recipe

Dad’s a fan of variety, so I put a couple different kinds of nuts and seeds in this mix based on what my parents had at their house. You could easily swap out your favorites…same with the dried fruits.

Oil-Free Fruit and Nut Granola Recipe

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Oil-Free Fruit and Nut Granola {Recipe}
 
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Sometimes you just want a simple granola recipe that doesn’t use a ton of ingredients. Here’s an easy recipe that tastes delicious and has less sugar than most granolas and no oil!
*Vegetarian, Vegan*
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 2 Cups rolled old fashioned oats (quick cooking oats can be used, too)
  • 1 cup sliced almonds (or nut of choice)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • ½ cup (or one individual) applesauce
  • ¼ cup maple syrup, plus additional sweetener (honey or maple syrup), if needed
  • 1 cup dried dates, chopped
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper (or use aluminum foil and brushed lightly with oil).
  2. In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients oats, almonds, and salt and stir to mix well.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine wet ingredients apple sauce, maple syrup, and additional sweetener (if using), and stir with a whisk to mix well.
  4. Add wet mixture to dry mixture and stir until wet mixture is evenly distributed.
  5. Pour granola mixture onto prepared baking sheet and spread to an even layer.
  6. Bake, stirring every 15 minutes for 45-60 minutes, or until granola is browned to preference. Remove from oven and stir in dried fruit.
  7. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Serve with yogurt or milk.
  8. Store in an airtight container.
Notes
Serves 6-8 depending on how large your serving sizes are.

Feel free to sub out your favorite fruits and nuts to customize this recipe to your taste.

 

Oil-Free Fruit and Nut Granola Recipe

A big batch of granola would be great to whip up on a Sunday afternoon for the week ahead. I actually did a ton of food prep today for Eat in Month whilst listening to the Tori Amos station on Pandora. I was happily cooking and baking away, singing to some beautiful music, and enjoying the moment. It was simple, but lovely.

Did anyone watch the US Nationals last night? Seeing all the beautiful skating really made me miss my skating days. So much so, that I decided to go ice skating today shortly after lunch. I’m still able to do some spins but very few jumps. Part of me really wants to go back to skating once or twice a week, but it would be so difficult to fit into my already hectic schedule. Maybe one day? (Click here to view some older videos of me skating a couple years ago)

Have a great week, everyone!

Annual Lake Trip

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I just got back from 4 wonderful days off the grid at Lake Lure. I had no internet, email, or cell phone signal. Instead, I had fresh air, books, and board games. It was lovely.

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And you won’t see any fashion photos from this trip. I spent most of the time in t-shirts and pajama pants. Ahh…

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We rented a pontoon boat for 4 hours on Sunday. We even took Bailey with us (with our friend’s dog-lifejacket).

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I learned that I forgot how to play solitaire. After many failed attempts, I think I finally remembered. Or, I made up a new game.

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We stocked up on Great Harvest goodies for the trip – Virginia rolls…

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…and cinnachip bread (plus peanut butter).

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My husband’s mom whipped up most of the meals, like today’s breakfast. We contributed a watermelon, purchased at a road-side stand near the lake house.

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We also made my Slow Cooker 3 Bean Chili sans meat for our vegetarian family. We served it Cincinnati-style (as introduced to me by my friend Erica) over spaghetti.

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Our best contribution, though, had nothing to do with food. We brought a game I recently discovered at a friend’s going away party – Sequence. We played this game over and over and over again. We weren’t very good at it, but we had fun either way.

Reader question: Do you think you’d enjoy a vacation without the internet or your cell phone?

Shopping & Tea Time in Downtown Asheville

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Note: I’ve tried to post this blog about 10 times now to no avail….so, now I’m trying it sans photos. If this goes up, I’ll go back and add the photos (if it lets me). Silly blogging software…

Note 2: I was able to use my blogging software to get the text up, but I had to manually upload the photos. Sorry for the inconvenience! Hopefully, my blogging software resumes normal processing soon. *fingers crossed*

After lunch, Sis and I headed out for some girl time with plans of shopping and a return to Dobra Tea.

We headed out to what seems to be my favorite street in Asheville – Lexington! This street has Dobra tea, French Broad Chocolate, and some cute boutiques and shops.

Did I mention that I don’t think I’ve seen this much tie-dye or Birkenstock wearing since high school?

Anywho, after checking out a couple boutiques (Minx, a bead store, a hippie-dress shop), Sis and I headed to Dobra Tea (which we visited earlier on the vacay) to wait out the rain that started up while we were shopping.

We decided on a couple snacks – the mochi for Sis…

…the Pita Lebanon (warm pita with olive oil & spices) for me.

Sis ordered The Forest Dragon (from the menu) – “Perhaps our most prolific of chilled teas, the Forest Dragon provides gentle luck and fierce flavor! Powdered Japanese matcha and Chinese jasmine green teas flash infused, to which is added organic rice milk, fresh mint, a generous shake of cardamom and a stream of sweet, local honey.

We decided to share a taste of each others’ drinks, so we got two small cups for sharing. Her Forest Dragon was really good and unique – I’d love to try to re-create this one at home (mostly because we don’t have a Dobra Tea in town where I can order one!).

I had the Tulsi Chai. I’m a big fan of tulsi teas, and this one was great. It was cozy and warm and perfect to sip while we watched the rain sprinkling down outside.

We had a great spread.

The tea room was a great pit stop – very relaxing!

Eventually, the sun came out and lit the room up.

And since there were a couple more things I wanted to try, and I didn’t want to wait till the next vacation to do so, I got a couple things to go – an iced oolang tea, shaken with sugar (they said on the menu this one looked like beer, and it did!) and a tulsi tea truffle – a marriage of French Broad Chocolate and Dobra’s tea. The tea was great, as was the chocolate, though I wish I could have tasted the tea a bit more.

We visited a couple more shops before calling it a day. Surprisingly, this shopaholic was being very careful and only came home with a new bracelet despite all the shops we visited.

We headed back to the B&B for some downtime. We enjoyed the fresh air from the front porch. I blogged, and Sis read The Art of Racing in the Rain. I had hoped to spend more time lounging on this porch, but I was glad we got this trip in before dinner.

Up next, Spanish tapas in Asheville.

Reader question: are there any must-see shops or boutiques in downtown Asheville that you recommend?

Poetry Slam Judging

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This weekend, I attended my first ever poetry slam. It was one of the coolest things I’ve seen recently.

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But since this blog has been a bit food sparse, let me show you some random eats photos before we get to the slam dets. Once again, a noodle bowl saves the day. This one served as lunch and was made completely with things I scavenged from around the kitchen – spelt soba noodles from my pantry and veggies from my freezer. Who needs time to go grocery shopping, right? jk

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I also enjoyed my first pumpkin oats of the season.

I like candy corn around Halloween, peppermint around Christmas, but I like pumpkin around fall. And adding canned pumpkin to oats is one of the easiest ways I like to enjoy it.

This bowl was drizzled with maple syrup and topped with some sliced almonds. Yum!

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Anywho, back to the slam. I was invited to the poetry slam with Slam Charlotte by my friend Talicha (click to check out her blog) who was competing in the event. Wondering what a “poetry slam” is? It’s basically a poetry competition where people perform their poems and are judged/scored. Higher scoring poets move on to next rounds of the competition till one winner is selected.

I actually used to write poetry when I was in school, just for fun (ok, as a creative outlet for deep feelings), so I was really looking forward to hearing from some new poets and seeing them perform live.

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The event was kicked off by Jamaal St. John who was visiting from New York.

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He shared a few poems, letters, and stories. The most memorable line from his performance was from his poem on loving thick girls where he said “a waist is a terrible thing to mind.”

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Bluz is the current slam master, and he did a fabulous job keeping us entertained between the various performances and rounds. He’s also introduced me to my new favorite song, which I’d like to use for almost any occasion, but will most likely prove useful as an anthem to play during a particularly tough work day. I’ll have to share it with you guys some other time…or maybe just on my Facebook wall.

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Of course, I was most excited to see my friend Talicha perform. She did a fantastic job, but did not end up winning this slam. Ahhh perhaps next time? :)

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By the way, I got to be a judge along with my friend Sarah. Apparently, they like to offer the newbies judging roles. I felt really unqualified, but they told us to just vote for whichever poem made us feel good, which seemed simple enough. It was a little nerve-wracking, but we had a good time.

Overall, the slam was so impressive. I’d quote more of the poets, but I’m afraid of butchering their words. Instead, I’ll just tell you that they covered a wide range of topics – from sad, to mad, to happy and everything in between. There were poems about sex, Alzheimer’s, a cell phone, a kidnapped child, a hair stylist, and love.

I think I see more poetry slams in my future (from the audience…not the stage).

Reader question #1: Who is your favorite poet?

Reader question #2: What is your favorite poem?

Figgy Green Monster Smoothie (Tastes Like Cake Batter!)

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With my Green Monster madness going on recently, I’ve been coming up with some pretty interesting concoctions. Seriously, I have about 3 recipes queued up over here. Anywho, none had more interesting, or shall I say a surprising, taste than my latest – Figgy Green Monster Smoothie.

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It’s a fig smoothie that tastes like cake batter.

The smoothie had zero elements that I would normally use to make a cake batter flavor and yet it tasted like cake batter! Ok, maybe it’s just me. You guys know I like to make my cake batters on the healthier side. But I honestly took the first sip after blending this smoothie up and thought…hmm…cake batter?

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I came up with the idea to make a fig smoothie because my friend who has a fig tree brought in a bunch to give me. Score! Unfortunately, even without teaching Zumba, my schedule has been hectic, so I haven’t exactly had a bunch of free time to experiment with a cool recipe.

So…What could I do quickly with figs? Why not put it in a smoothie, right? And as it turns out, figs in a smoothie are a good thing.

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Figgy Green Monster Smoothie (Tastes Like Cake Batter!)
 
Prep time
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Have figs and don’t know what to do with them? The easiest thing you can do (besides eating them plain) is blend them into a delicious and healthy smoothie. Since I’m on a Green Monster kick, I decided to add spinach to mine to make it green. This Green Monster smoothie had an unexpected cake-batter-like flavor.
*Vegan if you use vegan milk*
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: American
Serves: 1
Ingredients
  • 1½ – 2 cups loosely packed spinach (or sub ¼ cup frozen spinach or fresh/frozen kale)
  • sweetener of choice, to taste, optional (you can add with the other ingredients or blend and taste first and add in at the end)
  • 1 banana (a frozen banana will give you a thicker consistency, but non-frozen works, too)
  • 4 figs, stems removed, halved
  • 1 cup milk of choice (dairy, non-dairy, vanilla non-dairy, etc.) – I used vanilla soy
  • 2 cubes ice
Instructions
  1. Place spinach, banana, figs, milk, and ice in the blender.
  2. Cover and blend until banana/figs/ice is processed and smooth, about 1-2 minutes.
  3. Enjoy!
Notes
Easily multiplies for additional servings.

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Here’s a GM smoothie recipe that was actually designed to taste like Cake Batter…Nom!: Cake Batter Green Monster – Peas and Thank You

You may enjoy some of these other Green Monster smoothies:

*Click here to read my Green Monster 101 post* (it explains what a GM is plus some ingredient and blending tips)

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Enjoy! :)

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Reader question: Figs were an ingredient that I never really expected to put into a smoothie. What’s the most unexpected thing you’ve put into a smoothie? Did you like it?

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