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Parisian birthday or ‘following the footsteps of Barefoot Contessa’

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Recently I couldn’t be bothered to write any posts. The uncertainty of what is going to happen next after Brexit, attacks and abuse of Brits who ‘wanted to take their country back’ was not only making me feel scared but depressed.

But I am not going to dwell on it here, I never believed in nationalism, I think it only caused wars and violence. And I’d rather be Cosmopolitan than proud to be of one nation.

Anyway, before it all happened, Boyfriend had had his birthday. Very nice.

As a very good girlfriend (but only on special occasions, on every day I am a raging bitch), I’ve decided to take him out for dinner. In Paris.

Before you are mistaken by the nature of this gesture, let me assure you, I had an ulterior motive.

You see, whenever I travel with my sister, we always spend days in museums. Like a whole day. We get up early to avoid queues, get there, and stay until they kick us out. So last time I had been to Paris, I’ve been eating in museums’ restaurants. Not that I am complaining, the one in Musee D’Orsay has a beautiful decor and setting, not to mention a terrace from which you have a panoramic view of Paris. Or the one in Versailles – nice, elegant, great soups. But if you know me, you know I am a huuuuge fan of Ina Garten aka Barefoot Contessa. And I sort of always wanted to follow her footsteps and recommendations while in Paris. So although it was nice to surprise Boyfriend with the Paris trip, it was also nice to have a foodie city break.

So to start with we stayed in St Germaine. As soon as we arrived, we went for breakfast to a Parisian institution – Cafe de Flore.

I have heard horror stories from many Brits about French people being rude (especially waiters). Let me tell you, I have never experienced it, I more often encounter rude Brits than Frenchies. Maybe it is also in your attitude – if you treat other people like they are inferior to you because they aren’t the best nation in the world (and you are), and you think every other country should be colonised, also that it’s a disgrace if natives don’t speak English, maybe you deserve to be treated rudely. Just saying.

Back to Cafe de Flore – the service was implacable, friendly and polite, we even exchanged a few random jokes with our waiter. It can be quite pricey but it is totally worth it – their omelettes are fluffy and cooked to perfection. I always loved the fact that in France and Italy you always get nice bread and water with your meal without asking. 20160607_104010

 

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Cafe de Flore

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Cafe de Flore

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Cafe de Flore

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Birthday Boy

We stopped at a few cafes and had obligatory crepes as you do when in Paris. In the evening we went for diner to a restaurant Ina Garten was raving about called Marco Polo on Rue Saint Sulpice. And oh my, was it worth it….

Our dinner was delicious, Boyfriend opted for spaghetti alle vongole, I went for pasta with grilled courgettes and tomato sauce. We also had tiramisu. I felt like I died and went to heaven. You might be surprised why we went to an Italian restaurant in Paris, but firstly as you remember I was on the Ina Garten wagon and secondly, it is quite difficult to find a veggie dish when you are dinning at the Parisian bistro.

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Marco Polo, Paris

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Boyfriend’s spaghetti alle vongole

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Marco Polo, Rue Saint-Sulpice

Next day we had decided to try something totally different. We went to an American diner. In Paris. Yes, guilty as charged. The place was called Breakfast in America and it looked like a typical diner.

breakf in america

Portions were truly American as well. I had blueberry pancakes and I could only master half of it, Boyfriend opted for banana pancakes, but unwisely he had a milkshake while waiting, and that was like a meal in itself, so he only had 1/3 of his stack. The owner ( a true Yank) thought that something was not right with our food and was really concerned, we had to assure him that our appetite got used to ‘French portions’.

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Breakfast in America, Paris

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Breakfast in America, Paris

What I loved the most about the diner was the ‘bottomless mug o’ joe’ – just like in American diners, nice mug of coffee, filled up constantly by a lovely waitress as soon as you  get to the bottom.

I absolutely couldn’t leave Paris without eating Hank’s Vegan Burger.

And let me tell you, I could eat there every day. Boyfriend who is not vegan and tried different burgers in his life decided that Hank’s was the best burger he had tried. The other advantage is the price. You can have a burger of your choice, a drink and either chips or coleslaw for 12 Euros, if you throw in 2 more Euros, you will get dessert as well.

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Hank’s Vegan Burger, Paris

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Hank’s Vegan Burger

We also had to visit Poilane, a bakery in Saint-Germaine-des-Pres, Ina Garten owns an apartment nearby and is a frequent visitor.

You can read the whole article I based our trip on here.

And here are some random but lovely pictures from the city of lights and love…

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Coconut pancakes (gluten free, vegan)

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Many years ago a film caused a bit of excitement among film lovers in Poland. The word on the street was that Mike Figgis, known only for his musical career, had made a film with a Polish jazz band in it. Everyone was intrigued – why and how. There was anticipation, there was doubt. The film was released and we could finely see Krakow Jazz Ensemble. As it turned out they were actually Brits playing Poles (hahaha) but there were Poles in the film as well, speaking Polish.

About a moth ago I had a pleasure to watch ‘Stormy Mondays’ again. It was screened before the concert of all the musicians from ‘Krakow Jazz  Ensemble’ playing the soundtrack from the film.

And I have to say, I loved it.

The film is based in Newcastle. It’s a story about a club owner (Sting), a young man (Sean Bean) who starts working for him and gets involved in dodgy affairs. He also falls in love with an American girl (Melanie Griffith) and crosses paths with a corrupted Texan businessman (Tommy Leigh Jones)  who also happen to control the girl and wanting to take over the club.

The story, which is a bit of a homage to ‘Get Carter’, is not important. The most important thing about the film is the atmosphere, the way it was shot, great, great cinematography by Roger Deakins (probably my favourite cinematographer) and costumes (especially Griffith’s). There are my favourite 80s night scenes with wet pavement and lights reflecting on the surface, gloomy shots, constant rain and amazing music composed by Figgis himself. The film is imperfect and that’s what makes it perfect. Its imperfections make it less polished which suits the story, making it more gritty and real. But the cinematography, music and the atmosphere make the film magical.

There is also a sub story with the avant-garde Polish jazz band coming to UK to play in Sting’s club. There is a brilliant scene where the musicians are taken to Newcastle Polish Community Centre which involves dancing, music and drinking, also lots of untranslated speaking in Polish. The story goes that Mike Figgis knew all the band members and promised them that when one day he makes his own film, they would be all in it.

I still haven’t found out why they were Polish (although Poland produced some fine jazz musicians) but it is a quarky and funny addition.

So on a stormy Monday why not start the day with pancakes. These are gluten free and frankly, quite delicious.

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Coconut Pancakes:

1/2 cup coconut flour

1 cup buckwheat flour

1 cup coconut milk (or any plant based milk)

1 banana

1 tsp baobab powder (optional)

1 tsp lucuma (optional, but adds great berry flavour)

coconut oil for frying

  1. Put all the ingredients into a bowl, mix using hand mixer. You can add more milk if you prefer your pancakes less thick.
  2. Heat your frying pan, melt coconut oil. Fry pancakes in batches.
  3. Serve with maple syrup and lemon juice .

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Homemade muesli

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homemade muesli

Let’s face it, store bought muesli will never cut it. It doesn’t taste the same as homemade and you don’t know what’s in it (and probably what’s in it is sugar).

The good news is it doesn’t take long to make your own one, and the effort is minimal.

Homemade muesli:

2 cups oats

1 cup shredded coconut

1 cup sunflower seeds

1 cup pumpkin seeds

1 cup of nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, etc)

1 cup raisins

1 cup goji berries

1 1/2 cup Rude Health flakes (any you like)

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160C. Mix oats, nuts, seeds and coconut in a bowl, transfer into a baking tray and bake mixing from time to time until crisp but not burned.
  2.  Wait until muesli cools down and add raisins, goji berries and flakes. Store in a sealed container or a jar.
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homemade muesli

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homemade muesli

Whenever I think of muesli I always have to think of Flights of the Concords and their song ‘Inner City Pressure’, because ‘man, I just want some muesli’.

If you have never seen Flight of the Concords, you should really start watching it. Especially when you feel down or grumpy. It is hilarious and highly entertaining.

And here’s the song which you have to sing when you are making muesli:

Black Rice Porridge

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black rice porridge

black rice porridge

I discovered my favorite breakfast and I feel like Will Farrel as Elf….

Whenever I have it I behave like that. Which makes me think, is it just me or does everyone play their own film in their head?

For example, whenever I’m choosing what to wear, in my head I play the scene from ‘American Gigolo’.

Or when I’m pleased I feel like saying ‘alright, alright’ alright’ Mathew Mcconaughey style.

Whenever I’m dancing, I’m John Travolta in ‘Saturday Night Fever’. People who went dancing with me know exactly what I’m saying, as I like my dance floor to be empty, that’s why usually I’m the first one on it and I come off as soon as it gets crowded.

Or whenever people try to interrupt my lunch break:

I could go on for ages, but let’s concentrate on my favorite breakfast for a moment.

It’s just gorgeous and nutritious. It’s a Chinese type of porridge, and there is no oats in it.

According to Chinese medicine it’s good for anyone who’s concerned with longevity or anyone who wants to darken grey hair, recover from a serious illness, etc. Basically it’s great to strengthen your kidneys.

Black Sesame Porridge:

(from ‘Ancient Wisdom, Modern Kitchen’ by Yuan Wang, Warren Sheir and Mika Ono)

4 tbsp black, toasted sesame seeds

1/2 cup brown short-grain rice

1 1/2 cup water

pinch of salt

1 tbsp honey

rice milk

goji berries, any fresh fruit you like

1. In a food processor grind sesame seeds and rice as finely as possible.

2.In a small pot bring water to boil then add  rice mixture stirring so it won’t clump. Add salt to taste (can be omit).

3. Lower the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes until cooked. Pop the mixture into a food processor again and whir until creamy.

4. Add honey to taste. Serve with rice milk and fruit.

I usually cook big batch of rice and sesame seeds, keep it in a fridge and warm up with rice milk whenever I want to.

black rice porridge

black rice porridge

black rice porridge

black rice porridge

 

Breakfast Club Vegan Porridge

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“And these children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds; are immune to your consultations, they are quite aware of what they are going through.”

For the 30th anniversary of the Breakfast Club release, the film is going to return to US cinemas.

Why were films made by John Hughes, especially this one, so loved? Because he treated teenagers with respect without patronizing them and patting them on their shoulder. When you are young you feel like adults don’t have a clue, and to be honest, they don’t. Because once they grow up they forget what was so important to them 20 years ago, what made their integrity vanished.

The film about a group of students in detention starts like any teen film. But appearances can be deceiving. It’s not just another teenage film, and the students aren’t who they seem to be at first. At the end of the film one of the characters, John, raises his fist in triumph and that’s not the only iconic scene copied and credited in many other films.

Breakfast Club is witty and nostalgic but also sad and funny at the same time. There’s plenty of great lines: original ‘eat my shorts’ used so many times by Bart Simpson, that no one even remembers now where it came from. Also:  ‘What if your home… what if your family… what if your *dope* was on fire?’ ‘Impossible, sir. It’s in Johnson’s underwear.’

‘Does Barry Manilow know that you raid his wardrobe?’

It’s also the kind of film which makes you think of the parenting. If you make a decision to have a child you should really be aware of the consequences. And there’s many. First of all it was your decision to bring a child to this world. Not the child’s decision to pop out. So you are responsible for them till the end of your life. It never ends. You should always be there for them, even if it’s inconvenient, put them first and support them if it helps them. Also financially if it’s needed, even when they are adults. Also let them be adults and set them free. Don’t suffocate them with so called love. You need them so you want them near you. Not because you are a good parent. And accept this – however good you are trying to be as a parent, you are going to traumatize them some way or another and make many mistakes they will hold in their heart forever. Trust me. I was a daughter and I am a mother. The best thing is to just be their mom or dad, not buddy and a shoulder to cry on. Not a friend to party with. And however bad the world seems, you never commit suicide, because that’s screws them up forever, even if they already hate you.

So on that optimistic and quite upbeat note, what’s for breakfast?

 

vegan porridge

vegan porridge

vegan porridge

vegan porridge

Vegan Porridge :

1 cup oats (you can use gluten free if you prefer)

5-8 spoons of water

1 cup of oat milk (almond or any plant base is fine)

1 tbsp honey (optional)

any fruit you like

2 tbsp chia seeds

2 tbsp hemp seeds

1. Soak oats in water overnight (or for 20 min). Add milk and simmer in a pot on a low heat. Add honey if you like it sweet. Transfer to a bowl and top up with seeds and fruit.

 

 

 

Perfect Chocolate Granola

So Christmas is over. You had dinner with your relatives, probably heard few comments you wish you didn’t. Now you are seriously considering moving across the Ocean so you won’t have to go through it again next year.

Well, I find comfort in films were families are as dysfunctional as the ones in real life. Now it’s the time to stop watching sappy, sweat as ‘my teeth heart’ sweet films,  about Christmas miracles – finding love, finding the dog, finding your daddy, getting together, oh how perfect it is to be around the Christmas tree holding hands, blah blah films.

No one can make more real films about families than Edward Burns. On a low budget, writing, producing, directing and acting in it. He was called Irish Woody Allen, and I can understand why. Like Woody, he knows his subject and understands the dialogue. He’s a master of ‘walking and talking’ kind of films.

So if you are ready for another family experience which brings comfort in knowing that this time it’s not yours, watch ‘The Fitzgerald Family Christmas’.

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For years I’ve been obsessed with his work. It started with ‘The Brothers McMullen’ and it never ended. You always feel like you know the characters. I love his realistic approach to families, love, life and mistakes you bound to make at least ones.

‘The Fitzgerald Family Christmas’ is not much different. You have an Irish family of six children, martyr mother, bastard father and the usual issues. But somehow Burns pulls it of with a class, warmth and humour.

You will need something nourishing with it. I love starting the day with a film, so for me it’s always a breakfast choice. I have experimented with different muesli recipes, tried different bloggers recipes and the winner I would love to introduce to you today is Chunky Chocolate Buckwheat Granola from My New Roots blog.

It’s exquisite and it’s been my favourite for months. I adapted it just a little bit.

chocolate granola

chocolate granola

Chocolate Granola:

3 cups rolled oats

1 cup buckwheat

1 1/2 cup coconut ( flakes or shredded)

1 cup hazelnuts

3/4 chia seeds

2 tbsp cocoa nibs

1/2 cup honey

1/3 cup coconut oil

1/2 cup raw cocoa

pinch sea salt

1. In a large bowl mix oats,  and hazelnuts,buckwheat, coconut, cocoa nibs, salt and hazelnuts.

2. In a small pot on a low heat melt coconut. Add honey and cocoa, whisk till combined.

3. Pour liquid ingredients on the dry ones, fold until combined and covered.

4. Spread the mixture on a baking sheet. I found it easier to bake it on low heat – 140-150 C for about 30 minutes. Every few minutes stir the mixture so it will bake evenly. When it’s toasted, remove from the oven and cool completely. You can store it in the tight container or a jar.

chocolate granola

chocolate granola

chocolate granola

chocolate granola

chocolate granola

chocolate granola

Buckwheat Pancakes

There are days when you wake up and you know your day won’t be complete if you don’t start it by watching one of Mel Brook’s films. If 20 years ago someone asked me, who would be an ideal husband for me, that would be a no brainer – Mel of course. Back then he was married to Ann Bancroft so I didn’t stand a chance but hey, what would we have in life without dreams???

There isn’t a single film I can pick as my favorite…But you should always watch one to start the day.

For various reasons, like random but witty references –  in ‘Spaceballs’: ‘Prepare for the metamorphosis, are you ready Kafka?’

Absurd: in’Producers’ – the whole idea of making a musical about a Hitler who’s gay. As one of the producers, Max put it:’ That’s exactly why we want to produce this play. To show the world the true Hitler, the Hitler you loved, the Hitler you knew, the Hitler with a song in his heart’.

Brilliant dialogs : in ‘Blazing Saddles’ – Lamarr: My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives.  Taggart: Gol darnit Mr. Lamarr. You use your tongue prettier’n a twenty dollar whore.

I could go on forever. Also, I was brought up during communism, my reality at the time was absurd and incoherent. In a way Mel Brooks films with his own absurd way were bringing some comfort and understanding to my life. Not to mention that it’s a feast for any movie lover to watch his work, as he based his films on famous pictures and referred quite often to film history.

I remember my shock when I discovered Boyfriend never watched any of Mel’s films. We had a very quick and fruitful education…You can say ‘mala educacion’….

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To have as nourishing breakfast as the feast you get from Brooks’ films, you need buckwheat pancakes!

buckwheat pancakes

buckwheat pancakes

Buckwheat Pancakes

2 cups buckwheat flour

1 cup buttermilk

1 egg

1 mashed banana

pinch of salt

1 tbsp lemon zest

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Grease a non-stick pan with coconut oil, fry pancakes in batches o both sides. Serve with berries and maple syrup.

buckwheat pancakes

buckwheat pancakes