NEW eBook Released Today! The French Girl’s Guide to Food: L’Apero

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The French Girl’s Guide to Food:  L’Apero  $4.99

I am so excited for the release of my second ebook: L’Apero. A slang word, L’Apero is short for L’Aperetif or otherwise known as little snacks or appetizers before the meal begins. These little finger foods are just perfect for your next cocktail party or even as little nibbles before your next dinner party.

Would you love to see more? Leave me some comments below about other mini finger foods you love or some ideas for future videos and posts you’d love to see! Just remember… keep it French, Fresh, and healthy.

About the book: Packed with 8 delicious recipes, you’ll have everything you need in one spot to make your next cocktail party a huge hit. L’apero is the aperitif or cocktail hour filled with small finger foods and treats that get your event going. A classic French tradition, these recipes are too easy not to try.

Includes:  Melon & Prociutto Skwewers, Cheesy Profieroles, Dates with Gorgonzola & Walnut, Rillettes, Crispy Avocado, Merguez Bites, Brie & Fig Croutons, and Crispy Goat Cheese Medallions

**BONUS! A quick wine guide to get you started on knowing 5 basic reds and whites to serve for your guests.**

About the Author:  In 2005, Olivia attended the French Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center) in Manhattan, receiving one of two full scholarships to earn her certificate in the Essentials of Restaurant Management.  The following year, she became lead catering server at the Garlic Rose Bistro in Madison, NJ, while completing her Bachelor of Science in Business and Marketing.  In 2009, she became the Catering Director and Pastry chef at a restaurant in Summit, NJ and finally opened Olivia’s Catering Shop in 2011.

Olivia’s clients have ranged from corporations such as Hibernia Atlantic, T-Mobile, and Celgene as well as wonderful individual clients for birthday parties, grauations, wedding receptions, bridal showers and holiday parties. Take a look at a few kind words they have shared here. Olivia is also proud to be a full supporter of Susan G. Komen as a volunteer and sponsor. She has had the honor of cooking for CNBC’s Jim Cramer, and Top Chef Host, Padma Lakshmi.

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Stop Bashing & Start Loving Your Bodies: A Beginner’s Guide to Feeling Good

It boggles my mind to hear women put themselves down in public. Worse, putting themselves down in front of their teenage daughters. What has our world come to that a perfectly beautiful woman, in her forties, likely a size 6, in athletic garb, repeats over and over “I’m on a diet. I’m so fat.” In truth, it made me want to hurl and I am certain that I rolled my eyes with each muttering of the phrase. When I overcame my nausea, I began to wonder how many negative observations I have made of my own body, features, and character over the years. Was I just as annoying to others as that woman sounded to me?

I set out on a mission. Every time I had a negative thought about how much I weighed, a feature I didn’t agree with, or the way I acted, I would aim to take notice and see how much I resorted to self-bashing. The result didn’t surprise me. Every thought I had when looking in the mirror was astoundingly judgmental and negative. Whether large or small, obvious or not, wedged in my subconscious or front and center, I observed what I saw and wasn’t happy. Why? What on Earth would possess me to do that? And then it dawned on me: ME.

Society’s fascination with super skinny celebrities doesn’t help, but society didn’t tell me to compare myself to those women. I just started doing that on my own at some point during puberty, or perhaps in high school, when I thought I needed to be someone else for people to like me. Even now, at 31, I still catch myself thinking that way. Until very recently, I realized that I became the idea of someone that others want me to be instead of who I actually am. How many of you out there, both men and women, have fallen into the trap that so many others are in? Better yet, how can I, or any of us, think others are crazy for verbalizing their disappointments in themselves, when even I have some of my own.

This body is the only one we have to enjoy this one life in. Whether we are 600 pounds or 105, 6 foot 3 or 4’11” with thinning hair or overly abundant locks we can’t seem to manage, or light, fair skin or deep, rich, dark skin. Whatever our features, whether we like what we see or not, these are our bodies. Our BEAUTIFUL bodies that are loved by our family and friends and significant others. All of these people love us, so why don’t we love us?  I don’t believe in plastic surgery but I do believe in giving your body what it needs to run like a brand new machine. The more we give our bodies what they truly need (not what you think it wants), the more we will become happier with how we look.

For me, running has been an incredible asset to be happy with myself. Just 30 minutes every other day has completely turned around my mindset, not to mention my desire to eat more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Not everyone likes to run, so find a regimen that you enjoy and stick with it. Don’t think about the looming future of constant exercise. Work hard to stay present, in the moment and think about what you are doing today. If nothing else, walk. Move at a brisk pace and take the time to focus, empower yourself, and get back on the track of being happy and healthy. I can’t think of one diet that will get you the results you are looking for. I guarantee if you start moving regularly, the rest will fall into place. And if you don’t know where to start when it comes to making healthy food at home, leave me a comment below and we’ll come up with a few recipes to get you started.

If you are unhappy about your weight, then as difficult as it may be, it is still an easy fix. If you are unhappy about your character, meditate that nasty trait out of you. If you don’t like a particular feature, well, learn to love it: Surgery is NOT the answer. It may be the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but for the sake of teaching your children to love themselves as they are, start practicing what you preach. If you show them confidence no matter how many a blemish you uncover, then others will see it too. It is your ONE body to live your life in. Start loving it.

Wedge Salad – How to Cut Iceberg Lettuce

You love to order that infamous wedge salad on restaurant menus (parked closely next to the menu staple, caesar salad) and indulge in the blue cheese slathered dish. But think about how much you could have it a home with a few simple cuts of a head of iceberg lettuce? At times, it seems the simplest of tricks to some are unknown to many others, and thus this 2 minute, easy how to, to get your wedge salad started.

Iceberg has such a bad reputation of being an ingredient with low nutritional value, particularly when compared to other lettuce or salad varieties such as romaine or spinach. In truth, iceberg is packed with vitamin A, essential for good vision and immune health, as well as potassium, which helps to regulate our heart and nervous system. Of course, eating one little wedge salad won’t save your life, but its a great alternative to incorporate this super crunchy green into our diets.

Here is a word of caution: although delicious, most restaurant wedge salads are slathered with bleu cheese dressing, which is packed with fat. Stick to a few blue cheese crumbles and a little oil and vinegar to keep this salad relatively healthy. Traditional toppings include bacon, fresh tomato, and scallions, but feel free to modify with low sodium ham if you’re watching your bacon intake. If you must, enjoy the heavily dressed version sparingly to keep your waistline in check. In the meantime, check out my video tutorial on how to clean iceberg lettuce for a wedge and beyond!

Where have you enjoyed your favorite version of the wedge salad? Leave your comments below!

À votre santé!

Vintage Aprons: How Looking the Part Can Get You Cooking

SAMSUNG CSC  It always amazed me how many people come to me and say they can’t stand cooking. A little chuckle or nervous laughter follows with a comment about how their idea of cooking is poking holes in the plastic packaging and pressing a couple buttons on their microwave. Yet, we had just discussed how badly they want to lose weight and be healthy. Something just doesn’t compute for me. There is NO WAY that anyone can be healthy if you don’t make some sort of effort to “cook” for yourself. For all of you non-cooks out there, this is the time to start making some changes in the kitchen if you want to get healthy!

SAMSUNG CSCBaby steps. For most of us women, simple changes in the way we look and dress can do wonders on our mindset. The simple fact of dressing in clothing that does not contain a significant amount of spandex and includes doing our hair and applying some makeup can really change the way we feel about ourselves. Believe it or not, this concept applies to cooking as well. I can’t tell you how one little wardrobe accessory can make you want to do something that you never thought you would do.  While most of us have scraped the apron as a result of (likely) the empowerment of women back in the days of bra-bonfires, I say, bring them back!

Fortunately for me, on my recent trip to Montreal, my great aunt had a slew of vintage aprons neatly folded and stacked in a drawer that she never opened. It was almost like finding a new kind of Mecca, packed with these adorable accessories I couldn’t wait to don for my new videos and more to come. For the average woman, busy with school, kids, full time jobs, social lives, and more, a discovery like this may not mean much. But to me, this was the motivation I was looking for. The second one of these aprons come on, I’m in the zone, ready to create recipe after recipe that I hope to share with all of you.

SAMSUNG CSCMost importantly, how can it help YOU get cooking? Think about how confident you feel just coming out of the hair salon or after purchasing a new outfit or pair of shoes. Amazing, right? Well how might you feel if you put on that adorable apron you found at the vintage shop, or ordered one of these cute pieces from SurLaTable.com? You may just want to get cooking! Now, in truth, this is not the be all, end all solution for getting cooking. There are a slew of things that you could be doing that make cooking seem more like a chore than something fun. But looking the part is a great place to start and mentally prepare yourself to make that change. Give yourself, and your family, the chance to truly start getting healthy by taking one little step in the right direction.

SAMSUNG CSCAn in the meantime, check out some simple recipes from your favorite websites and celebrity chefs with only a handful of ingredients. Or perhaps pick up a vegetable dish recipe to get you on the healthy eating track. There’s always time and room to improve and develop your skills. Take your time and learn to love your kitchen and I guarantee it will start loving you back.

À votre santé!

The French Girl’s Guide to Life: Preparing for Bastille Day!

If I love anything more in the summer time than the Fourth of July feasts and festivities, its that of the excitement and food of le Qartorze Juillet! A quick 10 days after our own American celebrations, July 14th marks the 225th anniversary of the “storming of the bastille” and the start of the French Revolution. Just as the Americans, the French fought for their freedom from the ruling monarchy and over a relatively short time, earned it. While we celebrate the day our freedom was signed and earned in America, the French celebrate the day they began their fight, honoring military and civilians alike that fought and fell for freedom. After the why of celebrations, comes the how and with what menu, because any French celebration is not a celebration at all without food and wine.

SAMSUNG CSCFor those of you planning your parties (and I’m sure so many of you are), there is nothing like a slew of finger foods and snacks to adorn the table for a French festivity. Feel free to find recipes to make these dishes by hand, but the best thing about most of these items is that most store bought versions are the best.  Start with a rillette or pate with a very fresh loaf of bread, primarily a baguette, sliced and served for spreading. A blend of Mediterranean olives (pitted or not) adorns the table with a cute toothpick within proximity. Flavored and varying shapes of saucisson, or salame, are sliced and left on the cutting board to enjoy in what once may have been the shape of the dried sausage.SAMSUNG CSCJardinere mix or a fresh picked combo of cauliflower, carrots, pepperocini, and small onions offer a fresher alternative to the American pickle, while adding crunch in addition to the salty potato chips of the salt & vinegar variety. Cheeses NEVER come within proximity of the “apero” as it is saved for the after meal, yet before dessert moment.

Without question, my most favorite summer time savory dish is the spicy lamb “merguez” sausage. Inspired by Moroccan cuisine, this south of France staple is the epitome of street food. Skewer chopped up pieces or leave them whole for guests to enjoy and throw them on a hot grill until cooked through. A great, refreshing dipping sauce blends plain Greek yogurt, lime juice, and coriander, if the spice from the sausage gets too hot. Another amazing staple is the Pissaladiere, a simple southern France pizza slathered with onions, peppers, and anchovies. While that last ingredient may put most of you off (myself included), consider changing it up with another fish you favor, such as cod or salmon. For those of you still intrigued, check out my recipe on YouTube for a classic Pissaladiere:

While you assemble your food, don’t forget to take out the wine! This time of year just loves the Rose from Provence (no white zin people, that is not the same!). For all you men out there, a rose is by far not just a girly drink, but a full bodied, refreshing wine, lending many characteristics of an otherwise red wine with the fresh and light characters of a chardonnay or other white wine. I dare you to try it! If red is your poison, stick to a pinot noir or cabernet sauvignon variety, or perhaps a beaujolais nouveau. For whites, keep it cool with a sauvignon blanc. If you must serve beer, offer guests a Panache, which includes a splash of Sprite in a light, pilsner, hefewizen, or other smoother light brew.  For the kids, fruit flavored waters all around! The French love their “sirop,” where just a splash offers a ton of flavor and a little sweetness to the boring water taste.
IMG_1358For desserts, ask guests to bring a treat they love. When you are invited anywhere in France, its customary to bring bread or a dessert, which is usually a delightful fruit tart or an assortment of choux (profiteroles) or macarons. Cakes, no matter what the size and shape, are reserved mostly for birthdays, and even then make a rare appearance.

So with your simple menu in place, your wine chilling, and the big screen ready to play the parade and fireworks down the Champs de Lysee and Tour Eiffel, toast to the French and their freedom!  À votre santé!

French Of the Week: À Votre Santé

SAMSUNG CSCAll this talk of French food, family, and upbringing, but so few of the words and phrases that make the French culture simply beautiful. So this is an inspired, weekly series on words and phrases to get you by should you travel, or at the very least, impress your boss at your next office gathering or dinner party. Never fear, I won’t be giving out quizzes or exams (unless we have a major giveaway!); this series is just for fun! I’d love to hear your comments and requests for future posts, so don’t be shy and ask away!

What better to kick off our series with the little phrase I say after each video, blog post, and general sign off: À Votre Santé!

A phrase spoken minimally among the French, it is primarily offered while clinking cocktails or “l’ápero” to wish each other good health and a promising tomorrow. Literally, the phrase is translated “To Your Health,” and has been known to be shortened to simply “Santé” in lieu of cheers or similar sentiment upon glass clinking.

According to my favorite French dictionary source, Larousse, the textbook definition is as follows

  • À votre santé !, (latin sanitas, -atis, de sanus, sain)

    • Feminine
    • État de bon fonctionnement de l’organisme. (State of a well functioning organism)
    • Vœu exprimé avant de boire à la santé de quelqu’un.  (an expression stated before drinking to the health of someone)

Thus, my final catch phrase concluding each post, video, and the like wishes each of you good health, and with that well wishes for your day and future beyond!

So with fitting conclusion, À Votre Santé!

 

A Little Taste of Old Montreal

SAMSUNG CSCMontreal is not quite known for its farmers markets, but the Marche Jean-Troudeu is the city’s most visited. Open all year around, this market braves the long and cold winters featuring seasonal fruits and vegetables, grow your own herbes, and varying delicacies in meats, cheeses, and seafood. Living in southern California, I have my fair share of markets, and when it comes to produce, all of these outdoor markets are one in the same. My true favorites are the local items impossible to find anywhere else. If for any reason, you can find it somewhere else, the taste and quality still seems to be different, yet still delicious either way.  We picked up some amazing saucisson (otherwise known as a dry salame) and pate, and while you can find them both in France (perhaps even in San Diego), the flavors give you something new to experience.

As I write, my great aunt asks if its time for l’apero, l’apperitif, or the pre-dinner drinks and snacks that precede every meal. Its never too early, I answer her. And so out comes the treats we bought today at the market! This is a tradition I love, stemmed completely from today’s trip to the market with so much more than just bags of groceries. It seems the markets of SoCal are just beginning to adopt this tradition but its more of a vendor “hey you, buy my stuff” attraction than I’m-here-to-buy-something-delicious-to-feature-at-my-dinner-party mentality. The idea of a farmers market could be so much more popular if we were to begin this tradition. The market would host a slew of booths that would give us more of the good stuff, not just a multitude of produce or extra items in our homes, like bags, decor, or more things we don’t really need. Nevertheless, the market is a great place to start the day. Depending on what you find, it sets the tone for the rest of the day…and your dinner party.

Lunch was a perfect mix of simple sandwiches and local cuisine. A massive crepe stole the show, filled with béchamel, sautéed mushrooms, ham, and a little cheese. The crepe itself is gluten free! Which I have yet to make of my own, but it was perfectly crispy and gave a little bout of nutrition to an otherwise fatty meal. Lunch also featured a variety of grilled sausages, piled on a stick. You never knew what kind of taste you were going to get, including one of my absolute favorites, merguez, a spicy lamb sausage. Followed by a little espresso, we were ready to tackle the next sightseeing adventure.

SAMSUNG CSCOn to Old Montreal, the “old” town looks much like the eastern seaboard of New England, yet slathered in French words. Not much older, the 300 some year old spot still dons the cobblestone streets and stone built buildings. The narrow Rue __  literally takes you back to more colonial times, although keeps your reality in check with the modern restaurants, art galleries, and souvenir shops. Make sure to keep those high heels at home if you’re walking through these streets! The cobblestones are literally as they may have been centuries ago, and those heels will, no doubt, make you fall over. Needless to say, our stroll was quite lethargic as we observed as much of the local culture as possible, while peering into shops and taking in the sights. This is the exact idea of this spot, perhaps stopping for a drink or coffee and bite to eat depending on the time of day, but this area is far from excitement in the day time for those looking for adventure, so keep this stop as a more relaxing part of your day.

In efforts to avoid the Monday evening traffic, we piled into our transportation in the middle of the afternoon and headed for home base. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on some of the saucisson we purchased earlier at the market, and in very little time we had drinks poured and l’apero out. I find the best way to learn and enjoy a culture you may not know well is to start through your stomach. Follow your senses to the best places to dine, shop, and drink, and you’ll have yourself a perfect experience in no time.

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