Brown Butter Trout Amandine

Brown Butter Trout Amandine by My Little Jar of Spices

I hope everyone had a great Easter! I am back to home sweet home Cajamarca after a few weeks on the road, first in Brazil then in Lima. I loved loved loved Lima. The fact that it’s by the sea is just the cherry on top of a delectable cake of exciting things this city has to offer. It’s surprisingly modern and buzzing with cultural life, though I have to admit I mostly stayed in the nicer neighborhoods (Miraflores, Barranco) because of work and didn’t have time to venture out to the more “local” parts of town. Fortunately I had visited those parts  a while back during my first visit to Peru. This time I was there during fashion week – because yes, there’s a Peruvian fashion week! I should have known, with all the world-reknown Peruvian crafts and textiles, especially Alpaca which is becoming the new Cashmere, there are loads of fashion industries coming to Peru to source quality materials. Keep your eye out, I have a feeling hand-woven wool ponchos are going to make a comeback this Winter. Continue reading

Coffee-Rubbed Ribeye Roast


Coffee Rubbed Ribeye Roast by My Little Jar of Spices

This is a little awkward, the last recipe I posted was in February. I almost feel like a stranger on my own blog. Long time no see blog! The reason why I haven’t been posting lately is that I have been pretty overwhelmed with work. In fact I was traveling last week for a study on small-farmer Peruvian coffee cooperatives that produce and export organic and fair trade coffee to the US. Hey, maybe you’re sipping on a cup of freshly brewed Green Mountain coffee right now? Well I met some of your suppliers! Our objective was to study how connecting coffee smallholder farmers to international markets produced positive socio-economic impacts in the region and for the farmers of the cooperatives. Amazing experience in an absolutely gorgeous and breath-taking region (San Ignacio, Peru) named one of the best in the world for coffee; and for the first time in my life, I participated in a coffee-tasting. It’s kind of like wine-tasting, and believe me it’s serious business. They do it in a lab and test everything from aroma to flavor, uniformity, body. And you got to love the vocabulary of any specialty product-tasting profession when they discuss the results of each sample. Me: “slurp. Hmmm, wow, that’s some tasty coffee, batch number two seems stronger than batch number one, wouldn’t you say?”. The lab tester: “you’re right, batch number two was a little syrupy, with notes of aromatic cinnamon in cup, along with hints of mandarine acidity and quite lively on the palate”. Me: “…………yes, totally what I meant”.

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Thyme, Honey & Dijon Glazed Chicken Drumsticks

Thyme, Honey & Dijon Glazed Chicken Drumsticks by My Little Jar of Spices

I had an interesting experience today. My yoga instructor and his wife invited me to spend the day with them and their kids. We went on a lovely hike in Otuzco, about twenty minutes outside of Cajamarca where there are beautiful ruins, a river and a couple of farms, and then back to their house for lunch. They are vegetarians. While I have nothing but profound respect for anyone’s dietary preferences and choices, vegetarianism is always problematic given my own diet choices. Case in point: on the menu – whole wheat soup, peppers stuffed with rice, sweet potatoes, corn cobs and fruit, homemade mango ice-cream and quinoa-oatmeal cookies for dessert. A seemingly perfectly healthy lunch, but the total absence of fat or protein and the abundance of carb-dense vegetables and grains took me aback. In fact, 100% of the food on the plate was carbs, and what’s more, I completely forgot that this is what almost all of my meals used to look like before. Aside from the wheat soup and cookies, I ate everything else. I steer clear of gluten as a non-negotiable principle because even very small amounts can prevent your gut lining from repairing and keep your symptoms going. But on the other hand, I’m at a place where I feel that my digestive health is good and I have a pretty squeaky clean paleo lifestyle the rest of the time that I don’t need to freak out about the occasional small portion of grains, sugar or dairy as much as I used to. There are moments when it just seems senseless to reject delicious food that people have prepared for you because you follow a grain-free diet, and one carb-dense vegetarian meal with whole grains will not kill you or “screw up” everything you’ve been following. I can completely feel the effects of eating a bit of rice and milk ice-cream on my body though, which confirms that this can only be on an exceptional basis. My stomach has not been in a happy place all afternoon, rumbling, struggling and grumbling and trying to recognize how the hell all this rice got here. It’s ok, it was a delightful day, and I realized I’m almost never around children so this was a pleasant change of routine. Continue reading

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Mug Muffin 2.0 (Paleo, DF, Vegan option)

Cookie Dough Mug Muffin 2.0 by My Little Jar of Spices

It’s no surprise that the most popular recipe on this blog is the paleo (and vegan) 5-minute Cookie Dough Mug Muffin that I published back in June of last year. It has gotten over 3,000 pins and is constantly at the top of the list of most viewed recipes. There’s nothing I can post that will take it down from first place. For a while, my Creamy Chicken, Cauliflower and Broccoli Bake was getting dangerously close to bumping it down and becoming number one, but the Cookie Dough Mug Muffin stuck on for dear life, showed everyone who was boss and let the Creamy Chicken Bake take second place. I’m always wondering if the next recipe I’ll publish will beat it, but nope. And to be fair to the mug muffin, it is a pretty awesome recipe, not to mention it’s adorable. It comes together in 5 minutes – preparation and cooking times combined! -, is the perfect comfort food without any added-sugar, and it tastes like cookie dough for crying out loud. Plus, it’s a single-serving recipe so it’s great for a little sweet craving without actually tempting you to go overboard like if you bake an entire batch of cookies. I should have known it was going to have that kind of mind-blowing success. The funny thing is that when I made it, I had absolutely no intention to post it on the blog. I just wanted to make a mug muffin for Freddy one rainy Sunday afternoon, adapted a  chocolate chip cookie recipe with what I could find lying around my cupboards and popped it in the microwave in a mug. It looked so cute, so I took a pretty lame picture, and it tasted so good that I ended up posting it as a recipe. Continue reading

Recipe Round-Up: 25 Most Beautiful Salad Recipes

25 Beautiful Salad Recipes Round-Up

My roommate from Sao Paulo, Lea, and I shared a similar love for bright, beautiful, colorful salads. Whenever we’d have potluck dinners or invite people over at our house, you could be sure we were on the salad making crew. We’d let our imaginations run wild and put anything that sparked our tastebuds and eyesight to make them look visually stunning and oh-so-tasty: arugula, cherry tomatoes, mango chunks, toasted almonds, figs, parmesan shavings, thinly sliced radishes and beets, bell pepper strips, sundried tomatoes, sautéed courgettes… And then as we would serve our plates, Lea would go “oh wow, the colors in this salad are amaaaazing” or plainly say “Just beautiful” with a sigh. I miss my salad buddy. Continue reading

Roasted Broccoli Tuna Salad

Roasted Broccoli Tuna Salad by My Little Jar of Spices

I think we food bloggers could all stand to be a little more transparent on the truth of what our lives are actually like (I mean, we don’t actually eat sweet potato fries out of newspaper cones or take a bite from a cookie and put it back on the cookie sheet like the photos say). I don’t actually eat small portions of salad on fancy rectangular restaurant plates like you see here. That’s just for good blogging decorum. I wouldn’t want you to see the actual tupperware I ate this HUGE salad out of. This little confession is coming from an e-mail exchange I had with another food blogger this week (Little Red Bird Kitchen, check her out!) about food photography. I told her I take 80% of my pictures on the floor because it makes it easier to get even lighting, block out background “noise” and get better shots from high up, and even though no one openly says it, I can’t be the only one to do that. Let’s be honest, you can see the wooden floorboards in more than half of the pictures on foodgawker 🙂 And since I’m in a truth-telling moment, I might as well say it flat out, my meals are not nearly as exciting as this blog might have you thinking. I’m a very routine person when it comes to food. On most days, I will eat exactly the same thing for lunch (omelet, avocado and salad), cook dinner twice or three times a week and eat leftovers on the other days. Most of the recipes you see here are recipes that I’ve tested and made for friends or family, for specific occasions, when I’m on vacation and don’t have much going on, almost always when there are other people around to try the food. You can be sure, if you see a muffin recipe on the blog, it’s because other people ate it and approved it. Recipe testing method. Continue reading

Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic Roasted Figs

Pork Tenderloin with Balsamic Roasted Figs by My Little Jar of Spices

It’s the end of the year, so I thought I’d provide a recipe that’s a little more festive-looking: a delicious pork tenderloin prepared on the stovetop and in the oven served with juicy balsamic roasted figs and a generous sprinkle of thyme. Sounds scrumptious and fancy right? Well let me just say it right now, it’s easy as pie and requires very little effort, it could even easily be prepared as a weeknight meal. But it’s impressive and so tasty that you can also put it on a New Year’s Eve menu if you’re looking for a recipe that’s effortless and will surprise your guests. This time of year always makes me pause a little to reflect on past events and future endeavors. So before I get to the recipe, I figured I’d share some of my thoughts with you (and a small announcement of where I’m headed in 2014). Continue reading

Ecuadorian Coconut Fish Stew (Encocado de Pescado)

Ecuadorian Coconut Fish Stew (Encocado de Pescado) by My Little Jar of Spices

Ecuador is undoubtedly a big part of my life. From the time that I lived there, I quickly developed a strong affection for this small yet unbelievably diverse South American country.  Even after having spent a year there and having traveled several times back, I have never ceased to be amazed by this country’s unmatched beauty and nature. Not to mention its incredibly friendly population and delicious cuisine. And although I have come to know the country rather well , I still feel I have so much to discover and am hoping to go back for a visit next year to travel in some regions I have not yet explored well. Among the many things I have yet to try in Ecuador, one of my top to-dos is to visit a cloud forest… Food-wise, I can never seem to get enough of the huge diversity of available and affordable fresh fruit and seafood you can find in Ecuador. One of my absolute favorite meals is the Viche de Pescado, a delicious and very fulfilling soup made with fish, sweet potatoes, plantain bananas, ground peanuts and lime juice. Continue reading

Moroccan Spiced Burgers with Pistachios

Moroccan Spiced Burgers by My Little Jar of Spices

It’s already the end of the year and I can’t frickin believe it! One year ago, though it seems like yesterday, I was starting research for my thesis here with gleaming eyes and high aspirations as I took my first steps in the unknown yet exciting world of academic research. I wanted to write a paper that would change the world and uncover some kind of shattering truth (as it so often happens when you study smallholder agriculture right?), go on the field and bring back ground-breaking data, roll up my sleeves and argue with top researchers, basically do all those crazy things that hot, glamorous academic scholars do. Twelve strenuous months later, the only ground-breaking truth I discovered is that probably no-one will have the slightest interest in reading 200 pages on how to create commitment in buyer-supplier relationships linking private multinationals to smallholder farmers in Brazil (I know, crazy!) and the only arguing I saw was a tepid discussion on the premises of game theory between a Danish scholar and an Argentinean economist. I also discovered the less than glamorous reality of “no-that-person-that-you-emailed-three-weeks-ago-and-who-is-a-key-informant-for-your-topic-does-not-give-a-rat’s-ass-about-your-research” and “it’s-been-a-month-since-you’ve-submitted-it-and-your-advisor-still-hasn’t-opened-your-thesis”. After all of that, and loving almost every second of it regardless, I am proud to say that I have finished my thesis, submitted it, defended it and been approved. Yay! I’m officially done with my master’s and it’s as much a relief as it is scary. There are so many things happening and changes coming, and I can’t wait to tell you about them, but I need to leave some suspense for future posts. Continue reading

Pumpkin Scones (grain-free, Paleo)

Pumpkin Scones by My Little Jar of Spices
Everyone’s celebrating Thanksgiving and making pumpkin pie and leftover Turkey sandwiches, getting into the Winter holidays spirit with mulled cider and hot cocoa, baking Christmas cookies and lighting their chimneys…. and I’m sleeping in the starfish position in my bed without the sheets on because it’s getting hotter and hotter around here. Aah yes, Summer is upon us in Brazil. And it just feels awkward when I’m strolling down São Paulo’s big Paulista Avenue with my flip flops and sunglasses on and there’s a gigantic inflated Snowman standing there with a scarf on and Santa Clause’s just cruising along with his reindeer pals. It just feels… wrong. Continue reading