Mémoires de france


Yesterday, we met with the students traveling with us to France next summer. Some have already traveled there, others not. Regardless of their past experiences, though, they just seemed so *excited*. (Which, of course, they should be ūüėČ )

Their excitement has me reminiscing about some of my first French and Parisian experiences …

Like visiting Mont St Michel, a “floating” monastery in Normandy …

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Are you familiar with it? You’ll notice ¬†in the first shot shot it seems as though built upon a beach, but in the second …

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… engulfed in water. Its tides really are that dramatic! You have to be militant about walks around there so as not to, literally, be swept away by the dramatic ebbs and flows of the tides.¬†

Learning to navigate the Paris métro was another biggie for me at the beginning .

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… Concorde remains one of my favorites, what with the tiled letters providing hours minutes of entertainment. How many can you find here?

Some things were less dramatic, like finding my favorite neighborhood boulangerie ..

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… perfecting the late afternoon/early evening aperitif …

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… or always greeting a store owner upon entering …

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… That’s a joke. But if a dog owned the store, you would definitely be expected to greet him or her, in the formal form.¬†

I’m so excited for the kids to uncover other nuggets of French culture, and to unearth some new ones for myself. (I’ll be doing a home stay for the first time in over a decade! I’m so old!)

Vive la France et surtout l’√©t√© 2013 !

Living room details


I snagged a couple more touches for our living room last week, yahoo! Per usual, they popped up when I wasn’t specifically looking. I had anticipated all we needed to “complete” the room was a rug and some new throw pillows, but of course I happened upon these ikat lamp shades before the perfect kilims or rugs ~¬†

New lamp shadesI love the deep blue of the shades with the muted, earthy tones of our cave painting reproductions ~ 

Cave paintings

(Those, however, are not new. They’re my grandparents’.) ¬†I also grabbed this yummy candle. At first sniff, I was worried it would be too sweet, but actually Reserve Moonsparkle emits just the right amount of sweet and fresh perfume.¬†

Reserve moonsparkle candleThey offer a lot of other options, as well. A good hold over till I can stock up on Diptyque candles next summer in France ūüôā¬†

Coco-pine nut chocolate chip cookies


D has been craving homemade chocolate chip cookies of late and so a totally unexpected snow day last Monday carved out the time for me to complete such a worthy activity. I’m by no means a talented baker, but do love sweets, so was delighted when my spin on the Trader Joe’s chocolate chip cookies recipe turned out so well. Here are all the ingredients you’ll need ~

Chocolate chip cookies ingredients

I halved the butter by substituting a 1/4 cup of Greek yogurt in lieu of  the second stick. I also was amazed (as I am every time I use brown sugar) at how fluffy my stock was ~ 

Brown sugar toolDid you know, when moistened with a bit of water, a terra-cotta disk will prevent your brown sugar from packing and hardening? You can get them at any kitchen supply store, mine came from Sur la table.

Whilst pulling out all my ingredients, I felt inspired to experiment a bit and so decided to add flaked coconut and pine nuts, as well ~

Coco pine nuts ready for oven

I wasn’t sure how D would feel about the experiment and so opted halvies for flavors ~

Finished chocolate chipsThe entire experiment was a success, both flavors were delicious and moist and didn’t taste like they were missing butter. Unfortunately, Riley took care of about 2/3 of them while we were visiting D’s grandparents …¬†

Guilty rileyOf course we were unhappy with our 8-year-old-acts-like-a-2-year-old buddy, but next time we’ll wisen up before leaving such tempting treats on the counter!

Coco-pine nut chocolate chip cookies
You will need ~ 
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup of Greek yogurt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup of pine nuts
1 cup of flaked cocounut

Procedure
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour, salt and baking soda in medium bowl and set aside. In a separate, larger bowl, combine brown sugar, granulated sugar, softened butter, Greek yogurt and vanilla. Beat until creamy. Add eggs invidivually and beat into creamy mixture. Gradually add in dry ingredients and incorporate completely. Drop mixture by generously rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Allow to cool for three minutes and then eat ASAP!

Yields almost 3 dozen medium cookies or 4 dozen small cookies. 

Winter veggies


Oddly enough, we get some of our best veggies in the winter ~ 

Weekly veggiesFor the second winter in a row, we’re participating in a CSA (community supported agriculture). From a practical point of view, CSAs win out over traditional grocery stores: I get to order my food online, receive it door-front every Saturday and spend way less money than I would in the grocery store. (Our produce bill adds up to about $30 a week for the entire winter – January till end of March.) Plus, we are forced to plan a menu, which is automatically chock full of vitamins and minerals. It’s also fun to sample exotic (to us) veggies we didn’t know about before. Surely, you didn’t miss that terrifying looking growth front and center (romanesca). Just in case, here ya go again ~

RomanescaPart of the cruciferous family, romanesca is somewhere between broccoli and cauliflower, in everything from shape, to consistency, to color. We stir fried it last week with our winter broccoli. Not only was it deliciously sweet, but it also stood up well to being cooked. To try this week are rutabagas, which I plan to mash, similar to last winter’s since perfected mashed turnips. What veggies do you use during the cold months?

Ski weekend


I’m so looking forward to snow and friends this weekend, which we’ll spend in Wisp, in Western Maryland. ¬†A “ski” weekend is a bit of tradition for D, his brother and some of their friends, so of course I’m excited to join the fun, especially since the first one I attended was marked by much rain rather than snow, preventing us from hitting the slopes. I have little to no experience skiing (one trip my freshman year of high school doesn’t count), but I’m so excited to try again in just a few days. I love winter-time activities and the forecast is looking great (cold and snowy.)¬†


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What do you think? Skiing? Or lodge/hot chocolate/red wine? I’m thinking a combination of the two will be just the ticket ūüôā

Mirror mirror on the wall


I’ve had this mirror I snatched up from the antique mall for some time now. It has comfortably rested propped against the wall in our guest room for two years, but I feel like we’ve found its rightful home in the living room …
MirrorI¬†like the extra light it invites in when the front door is open, but I especially love the¬†reflection¬†of our ever-expanding gallery wall …
Gallery wall reflectionIt’s amazing how much a mirror will open up a space. Just a rug and the perfect pillows and I shall declare this space done! (For now ūüėČ )

Soupe √† l’oignon


I told you about the start of my Le Creuset collection last fall. It’s a bit irrational to feel such love for a piece of red enamel cookware, but let me tell ya, I really do love that Dutch oven. It’s the way slow cooking was intended to be done, as evidence by my first successful experiment with¬†coq au vin, and then again, when I made a delicious (and easy!)¬†French onion soup. (Of course in French simply known as soupe¬†√† l’oignon – onion soup).¬†I used the recipe in my Williams Sonoma Paris cookbook. As you can imagine, some of the recipes in this book chock full of¬†French classics can be labor intensive and complicated, but this one was a snap. ¬†

I started off by valiantly trying to cut two and a half pounds of onions on the mandolin. Two problems arose: 1) I am not good with mandolins. 2) My eyes are extremely sensitive to onions, to the point that after two onions I couldn’t even see what was in front of me (onions). I just couldn’t face the remaining ten. Per usual, D rushed in and saved the day. He sliced all these yellow and reds up in no time flat ~

OnionsA bit under thirty minutes later, they looked like this, almost caramelized and meltingly sweet ~
Sauteeing onionsWe were both skeptical the entire two and half pounds was necessary, but they definitely cooked down enough to necessitate such a large quantity. ¬†I opted to make one huge portion in a Pirex bowl since we don’t have anything that’s both oven-safe and larger than individual ramekins.¬†Here’s what the cheesy, bubbly creation¬†looked like all finished ~
Onion soupThe finished product tasted as cozy as it looks, and we had delicious soup for a week. The perfect wintertime meal!

French Onion Soup, adapted from Williams Sonoma Paris:

Ingredients

-2 1/2 lb of yellow onions (I did a mixture of yellow and red)
-3 tbsp unsalted butter
-1 tbsp canola oil
-Pinch of sugar
-Salt & freshly ground black pepper (I opted for chunky salt)
-2 cups light red or dry white wine (I opted for white this time, but plan to use red next time – the soup wasn’t quite as rich as I’m accustomed to)
-8 cups beef stock
-1 bay leaf
-6 thick slices coarse bread (I used a crusty baguette)
-3 cups shredded cheese, comté or gruyère (I did a mix of the two)

Procedure

1. Thinly slice the onions with a mandolin or knife.

2. In a large, heavy pot melt the butter with the oil over medium-low heat. Add onions and cover, stirring occasionally, adding sugar and seasoning with salt and pepper to your personal taste, until the onions are meltingly soft, golden and just caramelized. This should take between 25 and 30 minutes.

3. Add the wine, raise heat to high and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the stock and bay leaf, reduce heat to medium-low and let the soup simmer uncovered until it’s dark and fully flavored. (About 45 minutes.)¬†

4. Right before you are ready to serve, preheat the oven to 400 degrees and toast the sliced bread, turning once, until it’s golden on both sides. (About 3 – 5 minutes on each side.) Remove from the oven and set aside.

5. Remove the bay leaf from the soup. Ladle the hot soup into your chosen (oven-safe!) serving bowls on a baking sheet. Place toasts on top of each serving and sprinkle the tops and bread with a generous amount of cheese. Bake until the cheese is melty and toasts are slightly browned. (About 10 to 15 minutes.) Remove from the oven and serve at once.

I recommend accompanying the soup with a hearty red wine and a light green salad. Bon appétit !