Versatile Blogger Award

I remembering reading about the Versatile Blogger Award last year, but looks like this year I am a participant! Thanks to Ester from Work, Love, and Have Fun my blog is now being considered for the award! Thank you Ester for nominating me!

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The rules of this award are:

1. Put the Versatile picture in your post
2. Link to the blogger who nominated you
3. Give 7 facts about yourself
4. Nominate 15 people

The 7 facts that I can share with the world are:
– I have lived in 3 different cities and they were all by the sea. This is the first time that I live in a city that doesn’t have a coast.
– I am afraid of dogs, but I love them. I have a small dream of hugging a bulldog.
– I can write mirror image as fast as I can write the regular way.
– I have had LASIK. It was successful and scaringly fast.
– I cannot live without music.
– Nothing makes me feel as free as when I am on my bicycle.
– My real name is Layal.

My 15 nominations are:

Cartoline Blog
Fragole E Farfalle
Somewhere In Canada
Nostalgic Vibes
Heart Swell
Chew Outloud
Rosewater and Orange Blossom
Blog para anotar la vida
Thrifty Amos
Afternoons and Coffeespoons
Delicious Shots
Detras del tocador
How to Make Home
Amasakapaka
Girl Meets Rye

Thank you again Ester for nominating me! Good luck with your studies :)

Pagaille!

As you know, I am a huge coffee enthusiast, not just for coffee as a drink but cafes as places. On my way to work in the morning, I stop by a cafe to enjoy 30 minutes of good morning music, morning smiles, and a warm cup of caffeine. Sunday afternoons, I find a good couch at one of my neighborhood’s cafes and I just unwind there with my book or magazine listening to music and enjoying the vibe of the people around me.

Today morning’s pick was Pagaille on Villeneuve right on the northwest corner of St. Urbain. The cafe offers a nice list of coffees and a variety of sandwiches and pastries. I loved the interior deco of the cafe and definitely the little patio outside. I had a cup of latte and the surprise is that the prices include the taxes! I think the owners are non-Canadians :)

How about you? Do you have any rituals that you are attached to?

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Spice Blends

Photo from NY Times Magazine online

Photo from NY Times Magazine online

Do you make your own spice blends or do you use store-bought blends?

Honestly, I make my own blends most of the time. I made a fresh blend of ras el hanout spices for this dutch oven chicken recipe. Ras el hanout spice blend is from North Africa, commonly used in Moroccan recipes. If you can’t find it at a supermarket, try getting the spices apart and make your own blend.  It is one of my favorite spice blends. I’ve also used a similar blend to make the vegetable and veal tagine.

Here are 10 spice blends that you might find very useful for several kinds of dishes, including a recipe for ras el hanout.

Mixed Vegetable and Veal Tagine

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I wanted to cook with vegetables yet not my mom’s vegetable stew. I wanted something witih spices, a lot of flavor, and broth. I remembered my friend’s different tagines that she makes, so I put together this recipe from whatever my sensory memory recollected of previous flavors.

I used two handfuls of all the vegetables mentioned, roughly chopped too. Here’s the recipe:

This will serve 4 people.

– 350 g of meat cubes (I used veal)
– Olive oil to cover the bottom of the pot you’re using
– 1 medium onion cut into long strips
– 3 garlic cloves, crushed
– 1 jalapeno, roughly chopped
– 500 ml beef stock
– 1 heaped tsp tomato paste dissolved in 1/4 cup of water
– 1 tsp ginger powder
– 1 tsp paprika
– 1/2 tsp cumin
– 1/2 tsp dried coriander
– 1/2 tsp 7 spices (or allspice)
– Salt

– Two handfuls of potatoes, zucchini, and carrots (all cut into big chunks)

– 1 preserved lemon cut into thin strips

– 1 cup of kalamata olives

Method:

– Heat the oil in a deep pan or slow cooker. Cook the meat cubes until golden. Add the onion, garlic, jalapeno, and spices. Cook for a few minutes. Add the stock and dissolved tomato paste, bring to boil. Let it boil slowly for ten minutes.

– In the meantime, chop your vegetables into big chunks. Add them to your pot along with the olives and preserved lemon. Add salt to taste. Reduce heat, cover, and let it simmer for 30 minutes. The vegetables should be well cooked after 30 minutes.

I prepared couscous to eat with it. I thought couscous would taste the best with this mix of spices.

There you go! Easy, great-tasting, and done in an hour!